EU set to spend €62 billion on Africa to tackle migration

Migrants rescued at sea in the Mediterranean. [Irish Defence Forces/Flickr]

The EU has made significant funds available for a migration partnership with African countries, so that asylum seekers can be intercepted before they reach the bloc’s external borders. EURACTIV Germany reports.

It almost snuck under the radar as Brexit fever gripped the continent, but EU leaders made a significant announcement at the summit on Tuesday (28 June). “In the central Mediterranean area, the influx of migrants, who are predominantly economic migrants, has not decreased in comparison with last year,” they announced.

Commission Vice-President Federica Mogherini has therefore been tasked with making the necessary preparations to “return irregular migrants before the end of the year”.

Repatriation, irregular migrants, “before the end of the year”, have become part of Brussels’ everyday jargon since the shameful mess of the Balkans route began to unfold. This time, however, it appears they are going to be followed up with action. After its declaration, the EU has ceased its mere lip service to migration policy and has green lit a Commission paper that is set to open up a new era in tackling irregular migration.

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So-called “migration pacts” are in the pipeline with selected African countries, in an attempt to stymie the number of migrants making their way from Africa. Countries such as Nigeria, Sudan and Mali will act as outer defence posts, charged with filtering migrants thousands of miles before they reach the EU’s external border.

In return, the EU hopes to provide participating countries with investment programmes and development aid worth a staggering €62 billion.

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One of the world’s leading economists, Jeffrey Sachs, has told EURACTIV’s partner WirtschaftsWoche why Africa needs more development aid. He also urged Europe to be more like China.

The core idea of the new refugee programme is to increase European border security by reducing the number of people making the often lethal voyage across the Mediterranean and tasking African governments with doing a more thorough job of processing migrants than is currently being done in the EU.

So far, the measurable success of European countries in dealing with the migration crisis has been negligible. To date, its policy has been less about sustainable solutions and more about national governments working alone and a general lack of ideas.

The EU’s much criticised deal with Turkey, touted as the way forward by the European Commission, has been shown to be more of a desperate act brought about by pressure exerted by Angela Merkel, than an actual solution.

While the Commission highlighted sustainable strategies intended to tackle the reasons people leave their countries in the first place, including the involvement of private investors in supporting local markets, its position on where refugees’ final destination should be has been made clear: it is not Europe.

The executive maintains that migrants and refugees should be able “to remain as close as possible to their homes and avoid dangerous migration routes”. To achieve this, the executive is prioritising closer cooperation with countries of origin and transit countries.

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It is set to be very much a carrot-and-stick approach, as participating countries will be rewarded with generous incentives, while uncooperative states will feel “consequences” in nearly “all policy areas”, like education, energy, climate change an agriculture.

The European Commission had not replied to a request for comment by at time of publishing. But human rights organisations have been quick to denounce the plan. “As Europeans, we cannot close our eyes to the things that cause flight and the people that need protection,” said the CEO of Pro Asyl, Günter Burkhardt. He added that this kind of plan was evidence of an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude.

Médecins Sans Frontières also criticised the Council for its decision and warned of the “serious humanitarian consequences of the agreement, especially in Greece”.

However, it is unlikely that these criticisms will force any kind of rethinking, as the project has huge political support and financial clout to boot.

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