Thursday, November 12, 2015 1:43 pm
European Union and African leaders on Thursday approved a 1.8-billion-euro action plan they hope will help stem an unprecedented and politically explosive flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.
The plan, which immediately came under fire from Senegal President Macky Sall, includes vague provisions on speeding up the repatriation of failed asylum-seekers as well as a limited expansion of opportunities for legal migration, principally for students and academic staff.
It is to be underpinned by 1.8 billion euros of initial EU funding for an ‘Emergency Trust Fund’ which will provide finance for development projects designed to address the root causes of migratory pressures including poverty, conflict, repressive governance and the unsafe conditions endured by the millions of people displaced across Africa.
The money is coming from the EU’s collective budget and the bloc’s 28 member states have been asked to match it with contributions of their own.
The national pledges to date however have totalled just 78.2 million euros in an underwhelming response that officials in Brussels partly blame on populist pressures on governments to be seen to acting and talking tough on migrants.
The joint plan was approved at the end of a two-day summit in Malta despite misgivings among some African governments over what they see as a trend towards “fortress Europe” seeking to pull up its drawbridge and a tendency to exaggerate the scale of the problem posed by new arrivals.
Africans have accounted for some 140,000 of the roughly 800,000 migrants who have arrived in the EU by sea so far this year with far larger numbers now coming from Syria and other parts of the Middle East via Turkey and Greece.
A 17-page Action Plan, seen by Reuters, to be signed in Valletta on Thursday, sets out dozens of initiatives. Many build on decades of stuttering cooperation between the world’s poorest continent and wealthy but ageing Europe, where many leaders are uneasy about their proximity to Africa’s booming population.
Some are newer, including a European pledge to drive down costs for sending money home from Europe to Africa — a nod to African governments’ concerns that curbing migration could crimp remittances from expatriate citizens that are estimated to bring twice as much to Africa’s economy as foreign aid donations.
And EU officials highlighted renewed offers to ease visas and other access for African business and other travellers from countries that agree to take back citizens whom EU states want to expel as illegal aliens. Barely a third of Africans ordered deported from Europe actually leave at present, EU data shows.
Under a pilot scheme, African states will send officials to Europe to help identify those of their citizens whom they would accept. Many destroy documents to thwart efforts to expel them.
African officials and leaders made clear they welcomed the offer of cooperation but voiced reservations on some issues.
Macky Sall, the president of Senegal, said he had to consider those who had “braved death” to cross deserts and seas to reach Europe and those who died on the way. He called on Europeans to regularize the status of those who had made it.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former South African minister who runs the African Union executive, pointedly reminded Europeans it was they who had migrated and colonised much of the world and that most African migrants did not leave Africa.
“The problem we are facing today is because some countries in Europe have taken a fortress approach,” she said. “There is no country in the world that can be a fortress.”