Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Opinion

Development serving the purpose of migration control

  • School girls in the Central African Republic. Despite the rhetoric that Europe is serious about addressing poverty and inequality, priority is being given to short-term domestic priorities. (Photo: Pierre Holtz | UNICEF)

The European Union is on the verge of adopting proposals to reorient its development policy to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and contribute to “ending poverty in all its dimensions, irreversibly, everywhere, and leaving no one behind”.

However, instead of sending a strong signal of its commitment to the 2030 Agenda, the new EU Consensus on Development appears to be yet another policy proposal that puts migration management and border control at the centre of development cooperation.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Last November, NGOs gave a guarded welcome to the European Commission’s proposals for a major overhaul of the EU’s development policy framework, which should guide the EU development efforts until 2030.

One of our key concerns was that – despite the rhetoric that Europe is serious about addressing poverty and inequality – a series of earlier EU policy proposals for cooperation with third countries had rather given priority to short-term domestic priorities, including migration objectives.

We are extremely worried that such policy objectives have now also been included in the new EU Consensus on Development.

Building on its 2016 Migration Partnership Framework with third countries, the EU will agree to use its development cooperation, policies, instruments and budgets to promote migration management and border control.

Development cooperation will also be made conditional on the cooperation of the partner countries in the areas of return, readmission and reintegration of their nationals, while the EU is willing to agree to “maximising the synergies and applying the necessary leverage by using all relevant EU policies, instruments and tools, including development and trade”.

Alarming shift

This alarming shift in focus is also visible in the fresh proposals for a new Africa-EU Partnership, to be agreed at the November Abidjan Summit.

In the proposals, the European Commission emphasised: “the stepping up cooperation on border management, putting in place measures to manage incoming, outgoing, and transit migration flows, strengthening cooperation to facilitate the return and sustainable reintegration of irregular migrants”.

Last November, the European Commission also proposed strengthening the migration commitments of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, to be renewed in 2020.

It aimed to integrate the EU’s external migration policies and to develop operational cooperation, particularly on “enforcement mechanisms to improve return and readmission cooperation and operational implementation of international obligations to readmit own citizens with no legal right to stay in the EU”.

The very same approach is at the core of the European Commission’s proposal of a European Investment Plan for Africa.

This project was presented last August as the overall plan to contain migration from Africa to Europe by promoting economic growth, employment and private sector development.

The idea behind this is to use €3.35 billion of official development assistance (ODA), in order to foster up to €44 billion worth of private investment in Africa “as a key contribution to addressing the root causes of migration”.

Has containing migration become the primary objective of EU development cooperation? This would clearly be in breach of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, which states: “Development cooperation policy shall have as its primary objective the reduction and, in the long term, the eradication of poverty.”

Sacrificing development aid to serve short-term migration interests comes at a time when the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda is urgently called for, especially in view of the 750 million poor and vulnerable people, half of whom live in Africa, including some 20 million people at risk of starvation.

In many parts of Africa, we witness forced migration and displacement caused by poverty and injustice, lack of governance and stability, or droughts and environmental hazards.

These are regions where children are dying of famine, doctors in rural areas have no means of curing diseases, and tens of thousands of refugees and displaced people are fleeing from deadly conflicts and persecution.

Root causes

Over 65 million people are on the move today in search of a place to survive.

And there is little debate about the need to help them and to tackle the root causes of forced migration and displacement.

However, we have seen development aid resources, such as the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, not just being used for migration management to contain people where they are, but also diverted to “migrant-producing countries”.

This means, in practice, that development programmes in countries such as Namibia or Malawi are being closed down. These programmes have enabled children to attend school or see a doctor, and smallholder farmers to triple their harvests – thanks to access to seeds and microcredit.

Is this how Europe plans to implement the 2030 Agenda to end poverty, leaving no one behind?

While the overall majority of forced migrants are staying in neighbouring countries and regions, the arrival of relatively small numbers in Europe has led to a series of measures to stop migrants from entering the European territory, but also to welcome and host those who have managed to enter.

In several EU member states, the costs of receiving refugees have been paid from the budget for development cooperation – precisely the funds reserved for tackling poverty and inequality.

In the last few years, countries like the Netherlands and Italy have spent 25-30 percent of their development aid budgets on the first year of receiving asylum seekers.

Supporting refugees arriving in Europe is right and necessary. But when the donor country is at the same time the biggest recipient of development aid, are we not putting the carriage before the horse?

It is important to realise that enhanced border controls will not solve the root causes of forced migration and displacement.

Development cooperation and ODA should therefore not be used for realising migration objectives.

Instead, development aid has its own role to play in making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality by promoting sustainable, long-term transformations that will benefit everyone – notably the poorest communities and countries in the world.

Bob van Dillen is Caritas Europa's policy and advocacy officer

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Feature

South Sudan: Inside Africa's largest refugee crisis

Despite EU and international aid, Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda is struggling to care for people fleeing an under-reported war and famine in South Sudan that has displaced millions.

Africa is our destiny

U2's Bono writes that Africa should be at the centre of political leader's thoughts at the latest G20 foreign minister's summit and the Munich security conference this coming week.

EU leaders to push migration issue outside of Europe

EU leaders endorsed an Italian deal with Libya to help the North African country stem the flow of people, and pledged €200 million to help its coastguard patrol the seas in an effort to curb migration.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  2. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us