EU hails first result in Africa migration deals
By Eric Maurice
The European Commission said on Tuesday (18 October) that it was happy with the first results of partnerships signed with five African countries this year to reduce migration flows to Europe.
Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal are the countries that the EU chose in June as testing ground for its new policy of engaging Africa over migration.
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"We are starting to see the very first operational results on ground," the EU high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini told journalists while presenting an assessment report.
She said that transit of migrants was decreasing in Niger, for instance, and that work was ongoing in Mali and Senegal to improve the civil registry system. She also said that in Ethiopia the EU was promoting employment opportunities for refugees and local communities.
She said networks of smugglers were being dismantled and that returns of migrants to their original countries were on the rise.
Some 24 programmes will have been launched by the end of the year in the five countries, for a total of €425 million funded by the EU Africa Trust Fund, which was created last year.
The so-called Partnership Framework is part of the EU's global response to manage migration flows and try to solve reasons why people go to Europe - mainly war and poverty.
EU leaders at a summit later this week will recall the "importance" of the plan.
They will say that the objective is "specific and measurable results" in preventing illegal migration and returning irregular migrants, according to draft conclusions seen by EUobserver.
They will task Mogherini with another assessment report in December to see whether other countries can be included in the scheme.
"Most of member states will expect results in December," a senior EU official said, adding that "at the end of day, the measure of success will be the rate of returns."
Once the EU has judged that "the approach is the right one and it brings satisfactory results for us and our partners, we could consider other countries," the EU diplomacy chief said Tuesday.
The EU on Monday also adopted so-called compacts with Lebanon and Jordan to support them in hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees.
The two countries could be later included in the Partnership Framework, Mogherini said.
She ruled out such an agreement with Libya where the majority of migrants crossing the central Mediterranean come from, because of the current security turmoil there.
She also said that an agreement with Egypt was "not considered at the moment" despite calls for inclusion by countries including Germany.
Despite the positive message she tried to convey, Mogherini admitted that there was "no quick fix," and that her work was "about laying ground for more results to come in future."
The report itself notes that "the pace of progress with the five existing priority countries is different, as different as their economic, social and political context."
Pace of progress
With Nigeria, Africa's most populated country, the EU will start talks on a readmission agreement at the end of the month. The report says progress is needed for improve cooperation on the ground on readmission and the fight against smugglers.
In Ethiopia, Mogherini said that the political situation was "worrying", after a state of emergency was recently declared amid unrest.
The country, as the EU report points out, is "a key country of origin and transit of migrants from the Horn of Africa, and hosts the largest refugee community in Africa." A worsening of the situation could have consequences on EU plans in the region.
For now, the most visible success of the plan is in Agadez, in Niger, described as "a central hub for tens of thousands of irregular migrants trying to reach the Mediterranean and Europe, mostly via Libya."
With a permanent EU presence in the town and a cooperation with authorities and the International Organisation for Migration, voluntary returns of migrants to their country of origin has gone up from 1,700 last year to more than 3,500 between January and August this year.
"Agadez is a very important laboratory, a test case for possible replication in other areas," an EU official said.