EU wary of using development aid to contain migration


After the Lampedusa tragedy, several EU leaders have called for development aid to be targeted toward countries, mostly in Africa, which are a major source of illegal immigration. The European Commission admits that there is a link between giving aid and containing migratory flows, whilst insisting that the two tracks are completely separate. 

Some EU countries have questioned the traditional way of providing development aid in their southern neighbourhood in the wake up of the Lampedusa tragedy, which saw hundreds of African migrants lose their lives last October trying to reach the small Italian island.

>> Click on the infographic below for an overview of Africa's migration routes to the EU


Hollande: Prevention, solidarity, protection

French President François Hollande said in October he would propose a policy based on the triptych “prevention, solidarity, protection”. France, he said, will advocate for better cooperation with countries of origin and a much more active euro-Mediterranean policy.

Speaking about the Lampedusa tragedy in the Italian Parliament, Prime Minister Enrico Letta said the EU response should include a re-launch of development policy cooperation, with a new national legal base to be adopted in 2014. Italy appears ready to focus its action on countries such as Ethiopia or Somalia, where it has historic ties and takes the view that other EU countries should do the same.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of the need to “invest” in countries “before they get broken” instead of dealing with immigration problems later or seeing new threats to national security.

The world has seen many 'failed states' becoming not only a source of migration, but of terrorism and piracy. The examples of Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and more recently Mali and the Central African Republic all come to mind.

But the EU's response has been timid and France has largely taken the lead in Mali and the Central African Republic to prevent a situation of lawlessness which could end up contaminating a much larger geographic area.

Including cost of asylum seekers in ODA?

Concord, an NGO confederation for relief and development, has rung the alarm bell after discovering that some EU countries had reported inflated figures on official development assistance (ODA), by including the cost of receiving refugees on their territory. But as it turns out, the practice is not illegal.

In 2012, refugee costs represented approximately €1.3 billion of European aid, according to Concord. The largest absolute refugee costs were recorded in Sweden (€400 million), France (€320 million), the Netherlands (€254 million) and Denmark (€103 million).

When measured in percentage terms, it appears that refugee costs represent more than half the bilateral aid flows reported by Cyprus (93%), Bulgaria (84%) and Malta (81%), and a large proportion of other countries’ bilateral aid: Greece (23%), Hungary (16%), Sweden (14%), Latvia (14%), Slovakia (12%), Belgium (8%), the Netherlands (8%), Austria (7%) and Denmark (7%). As far as Concord can confirm, the only EU country that counts no refugee costs as ODA is Luxembourg.

What is the aim of development aid?

But the Commission insists that the aim of EU’s development aid is not to contain migration, but rather to promote good governance, human and economic development and tackle universal issues, such as fighting hunger and preserving natural resources. It also aims at achieving to the maximum extent possible the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in which there is no mention of migration.

The EU is the world’s leading donor when it comes both to development aid and migration. But it takes the view that these two tracks are separate. In the Commission, migration and development aid are overseen by two different directorates and commissioners.

Alexandre Polack, spokesperson for Development Aid Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, told EURACTIV that one aspect of the EU’s development assistance is to support developing countries in meeting their obligations to respect the human rights of migrants and managing migration in line with their development objectives.

Polack said the EU had committed almost €1 billion to more than 400 projects focused on migration between 2004 and 2012 worldwide. The majority of these projects deals with improving migration management in ?U’s partner countries, which Polack says will remain a priority in the future.

Strictly migration

On the financial level, the Commission’s main long-term development instrument to address migration issues in the EU’s partner countries is the Thematic Programme for Migration and Asylum. It has had a budget of €384 million for the period 2007-2013.

Since 2001, the EU has implemented more than 250 migration and asylum related activities in partner countries in the Middle East and Africa for an amount of more than €500 million.

As examples, the Commission has funded Regional Protection Programme in the Horn of Africa; it has co-financed projects with the International Organization for Migration for better protection of vulnerable and trafficked migrant children; it has supported government such as in Mauritania on developing their migration policy.

Strictly development

The figures of EU funds spent strictly on migration look modest compared to the budget of development projects. Only on food security the EU provides to developing countries around €1 billion each year, not counting emergency food aid. In 2012 alone, €1.6 billion was made available to build resilience and improve sustainable agricultural development. The EU Food Facility provided €1 billion over three years (2009-2011) to improve agricultural productivity and food supply in 49 most affected countries.

And EU education assistance amounted to €4.2 billion between 2007 and 2013, €2.9 billion for basic and €1.3 billion for higher education programmes. In the field of improving basic health, only in Afghanistan the EU has committed €341 million since 2001.

Some key results of European Commission programmes in the period 2004-2012 reveal that 46.5 million people have been assisted through social transfers for food security, 18.3 million children under one year were immunised against measles, More than 70 million people have been connected to improved drinking water, 24.5 million people have been connected to sanitation facilities.

Successful examples in Africa

The Commission has provided EURACTIV with a list of projects in Africa that have helped to improve the daily lives of beneficiaries. Intrinsically, these projects are also believed to have contributed to decreasing immigration pressure from these countries on the European continent (see infographic).

  • In Ethiopia, the EU has supported the road sector through sector budget support of €200 million. Results have been impressive. In recent years, the overall length of federal roads increased by 5.1% per year, and that of regional roads by 7.2% per year; district roads evolved from 0 to 6983 km. Simultaneously, the quality of the network increased, with the percentage of roads in poor condition dropping from 22% to 14%. Better accessibility of rural areas has had an important effect on reducing rural poverty.
  • In Somalia, the EU has invested €85 million in the education sector since 2008. As a result, more than 40,000 students have gained access to basic, primary and secondary education and more than 330 classrooms were built or rehabilitated. 4,000 primary and secondary teachers qualified. 30% of these were women. The number of children enrolling in primary schools has remarkably improved; from very low levels (35 %) in 2007 to an estimated 45% in 2010.
  • In Madagascar, EU support has targeted basic education and health services in nine regions to improve access, and strengthen quality of service. For example, the EU has financed the salaries of contract teachers funded by parents’ associations, which ensured continued schooling for children of poor households. The EU has also financed school canteens, benefitting 219,000 pupils and teachers areas where there is a risk of hunger, as well as school kits for 3,800,000 primary pupils during the 2013/2014 school year.
  • In Zimbabwe, more than 20 million textbooks were distributed with EU support to all primary and secondary schools in Zimbabwe thus bringing the pupil/textbook ratio to 1:1, the best in sub-saharan Africa. In the area of health, all primary health care facilities and district hospitals in rural areas of Zimbabwe now dispose of essential medicines and the rate of vacant doctor posts has been brought down to less than 30% in 2013 from 70% in 2011. Zimbabweans furthermore have more equitable access to maternal and child healthcare, because user fees for services have been eliminated in rural clinics and district hospitals.
  • In Mozambique, the Commission contributes: €25 million to improve water supply services in the greater Maputo area by supporting the continuing development and rehabilitation of the city’s water supply system. This will meet increasing water demand and increase service coverage, from 670,000 to 1,500,000 people. The project will expand water production capacity by from 4000 to 10.000 m³/hour, increase daily time of supply from 4 to 20 hours, reduce unaccounted-for water from 62% to 40% and increase network coverage towards peri-urban areas: from 1125 km to 1627 km of installed network.
  • In Niger, more than €100 million have been disbursed since 2008, boosting the ability of the government to deliver social services. Between 2008 and 2012, primary school completion rates have increased from 48% to 55.8%, and child mortality has been halved to 63 per 1000 in 2010.  600 km of roads have been or are being renovated, opening up regions for the delivery of healthcare and education as well as boosting trade.
  • In Burkina Faso, the EU is supporting the construction of what will be the largest West African photovoltaic power plant. It will provide 32 gigawatt hours per year, the equivalent of 6% of the country's current electricity production. This will cover the energy consumption of around 400,000 people.

On 3 October a boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa. It was reported that the boat had sailed from Misrata, Libya, but that many of the migrants were originally from Eritrea, Somalia and Ghana.

An emergency response involving the Italian Coast Guard resulted in the rescue of 155 survivors. On 12 October it was reported that more than 350 people died in the shipwreck.

The Lampedusa tragedy illustrated once more that the EU lacks a real immigration policy and has no strategy on how to deal with 'more Lampedusas'.

  • 2014: New legal base for Italian development policy to be adopted, with possible angle on immigration

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