Friday

1st Mar 2024

Macron wants asylum claims to start in Africa

French president Emmanuel Macron wants to set up safe zones in Niger and Chad to process asylum applications of people already recognised as refugees by the United Nations.

Speaking to reporters on Monday (28 August), Macron said the centres would "identify" refugees that have a right to asylum and kick off the asylum procedure "on African territory".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In what appears to resemble so-called hotspots, Macron said the proposal would prevent people with rights to international protection from disembarking on boats from Libya to Europe.

"It is through cooperation in security and justice, with at times a military presence on the ground, that we have decided, the European countries along with Niger and Chad, to prevent migrants from leaving towards Libya."

A similar plan announced by Macron in July for Libya was quickly dismissed.

But Macron's latest comments followed Monday's mini-summit on Africa in Paris, attended by the leaders of Chad, Niger, and Libya, as well as Germany, Italy and Spain. The EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, was also present.

"Hotspots is probably not the best term to designate the centres," noted Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, who was speaking alongside Macron at a joint-press conference.

Idriss Deby, president of Chad, said his country would not open offices that would attract people across Africa to ask for asylum to enter Europe.

"There won't be posts opened that call upon all the migrants from across the continent to come to our borders," he said.

Instead, Deby said the centres would be accessible to people already recognised as refugees by the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) and who reside in the country.

Over the weekend, the EU had also signed off on contracts to release some €50 million to finance a new multinational military force with troops from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in cooperation with the French. The joint military task force will be headquartered in Mali.

The African troops are tasked with cracking down on trafficking, drug smuggling, weapon smuggling, and terrorism, with additional military support expected from both Germany and France. France already has some 4,000 troops operating in the volatile region.

"We consider it a very important step in order to get a better grasp of the security situation in the borders between the countries that are involved in West Africa," a senior EU official told reporters in June.

Niger, a major transit route, is also said to have managed to curtail the flow of people heading towards Libya.

The EU claims 72,000 had passed through Agadez last May, as opposed to 7,000 this year. But those figures are disputed given the drop is based on incomplete data from only two monitoring points.

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) is also working on the ground in Niger and Chad to assist people who want to return to their countries of origin, on a voluntary basis.

Other measures discussed at the summit include EU-financed development programmes to boost job opportunities in Africa.

"In the coming days, we will also launch a private investment plan supported by the European Commission, which will be able to mobilise up to €44 billion in private investment in Africa for economic development," said Mogherini.

Mogherini said such investments, on top of some €20 billion invested annually in Africa by the EU and member states, mean there is no need to invent a new Marshall Plan for the continent.

Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of Libya’s UN-backed government, had also requested more help to control the porous southern borders.

The EU's mission to Libya has had its mandate extended to the end of 2018. But the broad insecurity in Libya means the EU presence is limited, given that the mission remains based in Tunisia.

Unable to control large swathes of the country, Sarraj is at the mercy of some 1,500 armed militia groups and a international community unable to engage.

Italy earlier this month had wanted to send six navy ships to help the Libyan coastguard but had to scale back following protests from Tripoli and threats from Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar.

The EU had announced some €46 million in June to support Libyan border management as it continues to train its coastguard.

EU and Africa leaders in migrant talks

France is hosting a mini-summit on Monday in Paris with leaders from Germany, Italy, Spain, Chad, Niger and Libya. The talks will likely cover broad discussions on migration, security and development.

Asylum seekers create EU 'limbo' nation

The number of asylum seekers "in limbo" in the EU is likely to be greater than the combined populations of Cyprus and Malta, estimates indicate.

EU accused of complicity in Libya migrant abuse

Medecins Sans Frontieres International says European governments are contributing to "the manufacturing of suffering at an industrial level" in Libyan detention centres.

Opinion

Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges

EU foreign ministers must choose between contaminating their civilian missions and operations with panic over security and migration, and reaffirming the EU's core values as a global actor for peace and development.

Opinion

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Latest News

  1. Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?
  2. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  3. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats
  4. EU won't yet commit funding UN agency in Gaza amid hunger
  5. EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds
  6. Right of Reply: The EU-ACP Samoa agreement
  7. The macabre saga of Navalny's corpse
  8. Belgium braces for Flemish far-right gains, deadlock looms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us