Statewatch News Online: EU-African ministerial conference on immigration, 10 and 11 July 2006

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The fallacies of the EU-Africa dialogue on immigration:
EU-African ministerial conference on immigration, 10 and 11 July 2006

On 10 and 11 July 2006, a ministerial conference on migration involving ministers from European and African countries took place in Rabat (Morocco), and it appears as good a time as any to highlight the dramatic consequences that cooperation in this field, which the conference seeks to strengthen, is causing on the ground in north African countries, and in terms of political discourse on both shores of the Mediterranean.

The first essay is a viewpoint by Claire Rodier, president of the Migreurop network, which points out that the notion of "illegal emigration" which is being touted by the EU and is being forced upon African countries (which have adopted draconian legislation to counter it) in exchange for funding, should be banished. The author notes that binding international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and subsequent ones like the 1966 International Covenant on civil and political rights, enshrine the right of people to leave their country, and draws a parallel between the EU-inspired shooting of would-be migrants by Moroccan security forces and comparable events a few decades ago in Soviet-inspired regimes, which were strongly criticised by western European governments at the time.

The second essay, by Peio Aierbe from Mugak, is an insightful analysis of the way in which the Spanish media misrepresented events in the north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, presenting them as a medieval assault, when what the migrants (whose numbers were vastly exaggerated) were doing was jumping a border fence in considerable numbers, and they were on the receiving end of the violence that took place, which resulted in many of them dying.

The third essay, was published in Statewatch vol 15 no 2 in March-April 2005, and looks at the "dialogue" between the EU and Libya, based on a report by the European Commission's Technical Mission that travelled to Libya in late 2004. It seeks to illustrate the way in which, rather than a "dialogue", this process was more concerned with the imposition of a pre-ordained world-view in relation to the issue of immigration that was developed entirely within the EU, on north African countries. It is significant that disagreements on substantial issues are dismissed in patronising fashion as a failure by Libyan authorities to acknowledge reality. Thus, with regards to Libya ,it notes that "there seems to exist little understanding of the need for a strategic approach", and objects to "their reluctance to accept the argument that illegal immigration networks are in fact "organised crime" syndicates that "lure migrants to travel across the sea". With regards to Niger (which unlike Libya is a poor country), further concerns are caused by its understanding of migration as "a source of revenue", and its reluctance to impose border controls on neighbours that would harm regional trade networks (as a land-locked country it requires access to ports in neighbouring countries) and the development of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Council Conclusions on initiating dialogue with Libya displayed the EU's unwillingness to reconsider any of its key assumptions as a result of dialogue with African countries (see, EU/Libya: Full-steam ahead, without pausing to think, Statewatch news online, June 2005).

Finally, the last document in this series is a statement by European and African NGOs that met on 30 June and 1 July 2006 in Rabat, with a view to presenting their concerns regarding the ministerial conference that is currently underway:
Statement by European and African NGOs on migration, fundamental rights and freedom of movement (in French)

Background documents:

1. Council of the European Union, Brussels, 27 May 2005, doc no: 9413/1/05 REV 1; Note from the Presidency to the Council. Subject: Draft Council Conclusions on initiating dialogue and cooperation with Libya on migration issues (pdf)

2. European Commission: Technical Mission to Libya on illegal immigration - report (pdf)

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