Thursday

29th Feb 2024

EU aid for Africa risks violating spending rules, Oxfam says

  • The EU has handed over vessels to the Libyan coast guard (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)
Listen to article

EU money spent on migration in Tunisia, Libya, and Niger is likely breaching its own and international aid rules, according to a new report by Oxfam, an NGO.

Oxfam's 68-page report out Thursday (21 September) comes as the European Commission plans to roll out some €105m for Tunisian border surveillance as part of a controversial deal signed over the summer.

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

"You see an overriding focus on projects that fund border management, as well as returning and reintegration as they call it — terms which are essentially a guise for controlling and containing migration," said Stephanie Pope, a co-author of the report.

The report also faulted the European Commission for a lack of documentation when it comes to scrutinising projects in detail.

Some of the EU-funded projects lack publicly available procurement contracts, others are vaguely formulated.

The obfuscation makes it difficult to hold the EU commission to account when it comes to rolling out aid money, says Oxfam.

"They are their own watchdog and that's clearly not working right now," said Pope, noting the commission needed to create a public database of all of its aid related projects.

The whole sheds light on how the commission spends money from its EU neighbourhood, development, and international cooperation instrument (NDICI) fund. NDICI has a €79.5bn budget of which 10 percent is dedicated to migration.

The aid needs to follow rules set out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based international organisation.

Those rules say aid should promote economic development and welfare of developing countries. It also says activities that neglect the rights of forcibly displaced persons and migrants do not qualify as aid.

A special coordination group was set up by the commission to scrutinise how the funds are spent on migration, but only representatives from EU states' interior and foreign affairs ministries are given access.

Most everyone else, including the European Parliament, is being left in the dark.

Despite such obstacles, Oxfam was still able to assess some 16 migration related activities in the three countries totalling some €1bn.

And they found that more than one-third posed risks to international aid rules because they aimed to restrict migration towards Europe.

This includes funding surveillance equipment and vessels for coast guards in Libya and Tunisia, in light of well-documented human-rights abuses.

Such abuses would also breach NDICI spending rules themselves, posing policy coherence questions on international development.

In other words, while the commission is aware of the abuses and violations taking place at Libyan detention centres, it still gives the Libyan coast guard boats. The Libyans then intercept people at sea and send them to detention centres.

The EU commission, earlier this year, announced it had successfully secured the release of 453 registered refugees and asylum seeker from the detention centres with the help of the UN refugee agency.

But at the same time, it finances emergency evacuations from Libya.

For its part, the commission denies wrongdoing.

"We have a holistic migration policy which seeks to undermine the criminal business of smugglers of migrants," said Dana Spinant, its deputy chief spokesperson.

They also say that their funding follows OECD guidelines and that they adhere to transparency rules by publishing annual reports on spending.

"Most of our actions are actually helping to address the root causes of migration," said another commission spokesperson.

The commission also says its policies in Libya respect a Do No Harm principle.

It says a report, by an unnamed contractor, has confirmed this to them. But when asked for a copy of the report, it refused. It also won't say who drafted the report.

EU makes bogus claims on Libya coast guard safety

The European Commission continues to claim its actions supporting the Libyan coast guard are designed to save lives at sea. But those intercepted are often sent to detention centres where they face torture, rape and murder.

Opinion

How should EU reform the humanitarian aid system?

The example of Ukraine illustrates that donors like the EU should be more ambitious about the localisation of aid. And this funding to local actors needs to be predictable, flexible, and longer than the typical one-year funding cycle.

Opinion

The EU-Kenya free trade deal shows a waning 'Brussels effect'

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis popped a bottle of champagne in early June 2023. After the failed ratification of an Economic Partnership Agreement with the East African Community in 2016, he finally could declare success. However, there's little to celebrate.

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. Podcast: Hyperlocal meets supranational
  2. Von der Leyen appeals for 'new EU defence mindset'
  3. EU supply chain law fails, with 14 states failing to back it
  4. Joined-up EU defence procurement on the horizon?
  5. Macron on Western boots in Ukraine: What he really meant
  6. Amazon lobbyists banned from EU Parliament
  7. MEPs adopt new transparency rules for political ads
  8. EU nature restoration law approved after massive backlash

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