Friday

22nd Oct 2021

EU to use aid and trade to stop Africa migration

  • Some 64,000 people crossed the Mediterranean from north Africa to Italy this year (Photo: iom.int)

EU leaders are likely to agree to use all means possible to keep irregular migrants from leaving Africa to reach Europe when they meet at a summit in Brussels later, according to leaked papers seen by this website.

The heads of state are set to back a master plan to use development aid and trade as leverage against so-called countries of origin in Africa.

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Most of the people disembarking from Libya to reach Italy by boat come from Nigeria, The Gambia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Egypt. Few are Syrians and most are said to be economic migrants.

The renewed emphasis on Africa follows border closures in the Western Balkans and a March deal with Turkey that has resulted in a sharp reduction of people entering Greece.

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel pushed the EU-Turkey deal after some 1 million sought asylum last year in her country.

Around 64,000 people have since reached Italy from the North African coast this year. And almost 3,000 have died in the attempt.

A senior EU official said the hope is to find similar leadership with Africa.

"We need 'Merkels', leaders who add their own leverage to the EU leverage, like Merkel did with Turkey," said the official.

'Small piece of the puzzle'

Leaked draft conclusions from the summit, seen by this website, suggest EU states are prepared to do whatever is necessary.

The draft says the EU will "create and apply the necessary leverage" to slow the flows from Africa.

This includes using "all relevant EU policies, instruments and tools, including development and trade".

The same document also wants to speed up returns.

Those caught in the EU without the right for international protection will be sent home even if there are no readmission agreements, formal arrangements that allow for the returns.

The draft notes the need to apply "temporary arrangements" until such agreements are formalised and applied in full.

But such moves are likely to upset African states. EU leaders and African heads of state had already clashed on the issue last November at the Valletta summit in Malta.

The EU at time wanted, among other things, a so-called EU travel document to speed up returns of unwanted migrants who have no ID cards or passports.

African nations baulked at the plan in Valletta but the EU is moving ahead with the idea anyway. MEPs in the EU parliament's civil liberties committee in May backed the travel document proposal.

"It is one small piece in the puzzle and one step in the right direction," said at the time the MEP in charge of the file, Finnish conservative Jussi Halla-aho.

The plan now is to focus the so-called countries of origin in Africa but also transit countries like pariah state Sudan.

Problems with Sudan

Sudan's ministry of interior has requested the EU help fund border infrastructure at 17 crossing points.

This includes computers, scanners, servers, cars and aircraft. It also wants two reception centres in Gadaref and Kassala, with so-called "custody rooms".

Sudan deported at least 442 Eritreans, including six registered refugees, to Eritrea in May, a month after the EU commission had announced €100 million development aid package for Sudan.

EU development commissioner Neven Mimica made the announcement following his visit to the country, whose president Omar al-Bashir is wanted for genocide.

Mimica didn't meet Bashir but he did hold meetings with the Sudan's interior ministry, among others in the government.

The commission says funding won't go to the Sudan government.

External investment fund

Part of the package on Tuesday includes a proposal, to be presented in September, for a new external investment fund.

An EU source told EUobserver that the idea behind the investment fund is "to create better conditions in these countries so that less people would leave".

The fund will pool private and public funds together to help build things like big infrastructure projects.

It's part of a larger idea announced earlier this month by the EU commission to shore up money and bilateral relations with African states.

The commission said some €3.1 billion will be mobilised for its so-called partnership framework. The money is then expected to trigger total investments of up to €31 billion and possibly €62 billion.

European Investment Bank (EIB) chief Werner Hoyer, for his part, will on Tuesday brief the heads of the state on separate but linked proposal to the external fund.

But an EU source said it was unlikely there would be clear commitments made by EU heads of state to the EIB plan and the external fund.

"Don't expect any clear commitments to this but those will be mentioned," he noted.

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