The presence of a large foreign population--estimated by some to be as high as 50 percent of the total in 1985--complicates ethnic relations in Côte d'Ivoire. The area was the scene of population migration and mobility long before the imposition of national boundaries. Many ethnic groups overlap present boundaries, placing citizenship and ethnic loyalties in conflict, and some foreigners have remained in Côte d'Ivoire long enough to feel they are Ivoirians. Official demographic and employment data often include immigrant workers and residents. Despite these complications, the government has attempted to codify the legal distinction between citizen and noncitizen, and this distinction is becoming increasingly important to many people.
In the mid-1980s, the largest single foreign minority group was the Burkinabé, most of Mossi ethnic identity, who numbered about 1.2 million-nearly one-half of the foreign population. Unlike most other foreigners, Mossi immigrants were concentrated in rural areas, where they worked as agricultural laborers. Some Mossi workers were also found in low-wage urban jobs.
Other ethnic groups represented in the foreign population included Krou peoples from Liberia, Fanti and Ewe from Ghana, and smaller numbers of Bobo, Gourounsi, Dogon, Hausa, Djerma, and Fulani from neighboring states. Lebanese immigrants, officially estimated at 60,000 but possibly numbering close to 200,000 in 1987, worked in commerce and business in many towns. The French population, once as high as 60,000, had declined to about 30,000, or the same number as at independence. Other Europeans and Africans were also found in this complex and cosmopolitan nation.
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