This article is part of our special report Is EU development aid working?.
Member states have deployed their development aid budgets to tackle the root causes of the migration crisis. But the effectiveness of these programmes in stemming the flow of migrants to the EU has yet to be seen. EURACTIV France reports.
Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, the EU has announced a host of measures aimed at bringing the situation under control. Europe’s development assistance budget, the largest international aid pot in the world, has so far made up a large share of the financial shortfall. But the results of similar action in the past have not always met expectations.
At the migration summit held in Valetta last November, the EU launched an Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, designed to address the root causes of irregular migration and forcible displacement.
Conceived as a faster-acting and more flexible alternative to traditional development assistance, the fund aims to support job-creating development programmes, like those in the domains of food security and health. But also, and perhaps most importantly, projects aimed at improving migration management in the countries of the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa.
So far, ten projects have been adopted and are in the process of being launched, including a €67 million package to improve the means of subsistence in the regions of Ethiopia where the migration phenomenon is particularly extreme, according to the Commission.
Another project to receive support from the trust fund is a €50 million programme to return displaced Somalis to stable areas of the country.
But this new trust fund, designed to serve as part of the response to the migration crisis by fostering development in the migrants’ countries of origin and transit, may run up against the same problems traditionally encountered by European aid.
Critical Court of Auditors
According to a highly critical European Court of Auditors report on the share of European aid allocated to the issue of migration published in mid-March, the EU is struggling to draw a clear link between the causes and the effects of the phenomenon.
In the two programmes covered by the audit, both of which come under the EU’s “external migration spending in Southern Mediterranean and Eastern Neighbourhood countries until 2014”, the limiting effects on migration have been hard to see.
The lack of reliable indicators for illegal immigration statistics in the EU makes the evaluation of these programmes difficult. Neither does the practice of giving a thin dusting of aid money to a large number of small projects help in assessing their results. Despite the large number of initiatives on the ground, they have so far failed to reach the critical number of people needed to influence mass migration movements.
Elizabeth Collett, the director of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), believes that the similarities between the workings of the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and the programmes studied by the EU’s auditors could see the trust fund confronted with the very same problems.
Security mission creep
A large proportion of European aid funds are spent on the management of migratory flows, sometimes at the direct expense of development projects.
The Court of Auditors’ report found that “security and border protection were the predominant element in European migration spending”.
“We are extremely concerned that European development aid is becoming increasingly influenced by the EU’s security interests. But strengthening security at the borders in order to contain migration has nothing to do with helping the populations suffering from poverty in developing countries or dealing with extreme inequality,” said Sara Tesorieri, Oxfam’s EU migration policy advisor.
This leaning towards security is beginning to find its way into the very fabric of official development assistance. In February this year, the development ministers of the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s 29 countries agreed to expand their definition of development assistance to include more spending linked to peace and security operations.
The link between development and migration
But even the conventional logic, which states that the temptation to migrate should fall in line with poverty alleviation and job creation efforts, is itself up for debate.
“Research conducted by Oxford University has shown that increased human development will probably lead to more, not less, mobility,” Tesorieri said.
The UN shares this view. “More development means more migration. Because all those people that have for a long time been wanting to leave, but could not afford to do so, can now leave their country,” François Crépeau, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said during a visit to Brussels.