23rd Oct 2016

EU seeks migration deal with African states

  • The EU is working with countries in Africa to stem migration flows (Photo: UNited Nations Photo)

Interior ministers are gathering in Luxembourg on Thursday (12 October) to discuss migration amid wider concerns over the high flow of people from Africa to Italy.

Ministers will debate how to slow the flows, step up returns, and hash out migration agreements with African states.

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Fabrice Leggeri, who heads European Border and Coast Guard, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday that the arrivals from Africa is now the main problem for the European Union.

"In terms of irregular migration right now Italy is the member state number one," he said.

Some 144,000 people reached Italy so far this year alone with over 3,600 dying in the attempt. Last year, around 154,000 made the attempt.

An EU senior official told reporters earlier this week that the EU wants deals sorted with Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal with results expected before the end of the year.

Those deals will focus on returning rejected asylum seekers and others who arrived from Africa by crossing the Mediterranean sea.

Foreign ministers are also set to discuss the plans when they meet next week.

Earlier this week, Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel said African states need to halt migration flows and announced both military and development aid.

Such efforts are not new.

Khartoum Process and Sudan's Rapid Support Force

Two years ago, the EU launched the so-called Khartoum Process, described as a "political dialogue" between EU states and Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Tunisia.

The main focus is stop migration flows and smuggling. But some of the regimes like in Sudan and Eritrea have a long history of human rights abuse.

Sudan's ministry for interior earlier this year requested the EU to help fund border infrastructure at 17 crossing points after the EU commission announced a €100 million development package for the country.

Its government militia, the Rapid Support Force (RSF), are tasked to prevent the border crossings. But the RSF also includes men who fought in Darfur with the Janjaweed, a militia of Sudanese Arab tribes that is now part of the RSF.

In August, RSF commmander Mohamed Hamdan, a former Janjaweed warlord also known as Hametti, threatened to allow migrants to pass freely unless Europe provided it with more military equipment.

"We are hard at work to aide Europe in containing the flow of migrants, and if our valuable efforts are not well appreciated, we will (re) open the desert to migrants," he said.

The EU, for its part, has denied providing any support to the RSF, noting that all its aid is shuffled through international aid agencies and NGOs.

But one document shows some €40 million will be spent under the Khartoum Process.

It notes, among other things, that support will go to "the governments participating in the Khartoum Process" and that there is a need to increase joint-border management "as already tried between Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Sudan."

More specifically, it says money will most likely go to help finance border police in Sudan, equipment for a training centre in Khartoum, and cars, cameras, and computers at crossing points.

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