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24th Oct 2020

EU and Africa still at loggerheads on Valletta accord

  • Valletta negotiators remain divided on readmissions and legal migration (Photo: IOM.org)

Senior EU and African officials remain divided on readmission and legal migration ahead of the Valletta summit in Malta.

The two sides have been thrashing out draft conclusions and political declarations in the lead up to a conference aimed at addressing the root causes of migration flows to the EU from the continent.

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“What remains to be discussed is certainly the issue of returns and readmission where some of our African partners are still looking for ways of redrafting some of the present version that is on the table,” a senior EU official told reporters in Brussels on Monday (9 November).

Officials from both sides will be meeting Tuesday in an effort to reach a common position on the issue before the summit kicks off on Wednesday.

The EU wants to increase return rates for African countries, which is now below 30 percent.

The latest draft version of the conclusions seen by this website, dated Friday (6 November), notes one of the biggest obstacles to sending back people is the absence of identification documents.

It says practical cooperation is needed on returns when it comes to “identification and issuance of travel documents.”

But African negotiators want more emphasis on voluntary returns and legal migration.

On legal migration, the draft calls for pilot projects and doubling scholarships to the EU.

The EU is unlikely to budge on the issue, noted the EU official.

“I personally think we don’t have much room there apart from what we have already put in the draft action plan,” he said.

African negotiators are also unhappy with a plan to issue special transit visas or EU laissez-passer documents for those sent home.

The EU laissez-passer is a standard travel document for the expulsion of third-country nationals. Member states want it to become the standard for all those booted out of the EU.

The African Union's ambassador to the EU, Ajay Bramdeo, last week said such a document was “unheard of in terms of international law and international practice.”

He said African nationals asked to leave the EU should only do so on a voluntary basis.

“We want them to be skilled, returned voluntarily, and be able to reintegrate into their societies, into their economies and become self-sufficient,” he said.

The EU also wants readmission agreements to be respected.

So far it has 17 readmission agreements, but aside from the Cape Verde archipelago some 570km off African west coast, none are with continental African states.

Discussions started with Morocco over a decade ago, recent efforts are under way with Tunisia, while talks with Algeria haven’t started despite a 2002 mandate.

EU member states are banking on a readmission clause in the Cotonou agreement signed by sub-saharan Africa countries over 15 years ago.

EU interior ministers last month said it must be implemented.

They want them up and running in Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Gambia as soon as possible.

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