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The 'Khartoum Process': beefing up borders in east Africa

The 'Khartoum Process' is intended to limit the number of people travelling to Europe via the "Horn of Africa migration route" and involves east African states, EU Member States, the European Commission and the African Union. Formally known as the 'EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative', it has been criticised by the human rights organisation AEDH as attempting "to arrange the material conditions to avoid that they [migrants and refugees] come to Europe, especially by establishing asylum processing centres" within African countries. The 'Process' foresees, amongst other things, the enhancement of law enforcement powers and border controls in east African states.

Tackling "irregular migration and criminal networks"

The main aims of the Khartoum Process are set out in a Ministerial Declaration signed on November 2014 by 37 European and African states as well as EU and African Union officials. They include:

  • Cooperating "to tackle irregular migration and criminal networks, through concrete measures on a voluntary basis such as initiatives in the area of information-sharing, focused training and capacity building, technical assistance and the exchange of best practices";
  • "Assisting the national authorities [of countries of origin] in stepping up prevention measures, such as information campaigns";
  • Strengthening cooperation between state agencies to "address trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants, including ensuring protection to refugees and asylum seekers and assistance to migrants in vulnerable situations";
  • "Assisting in improving identification and prosecution of criminal networks by enhancing national law enforcement agencies, and the judicial systems responses." [1]

AEDH (Association Européene pour la défense des Droits de l'Homme) issued a strong response to signing of the Ministerial Declaration:

"AEDH notes the continuity with which the EU, obsessed by the protection of its borders requests the assistance of third countries to this end! Indeed, the Khartoum Process is a further step in the policy of externalisation of the management of migratory flows: despite the declarations of intention on the respect of the fundamental rights of migrants, the aim is to arrange the material conditions to avoid that they come to Europe, especially by establishing asylum processing centres. It is also about facilitating the return of "undesirable" migrants." [2]

Addressing the "root causes of irregular migration"?

The Khartoum Process also commits the parties involved to "concrete cooperation" on "promoting sustainable development in countries of origin and transit in order to address the root causes of irregular migration".

There may be agreement on "promoting" development, but EU trade policy appears to be at odds with these aims. Last year the EU signed a free trade deal with a number of African states that has been condemned by NGOs, politicians and diplomats in both Europe and Africa. An article published by the website Quartz argues that the deal "will make sure West Africa develops just enough to buy more stuff from Europe, but not enough to do any manufacturing of its own." [3]

Angela Merkel's trade advisor said the deal risked destroying the work of development policy; while former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa said it was "based on specific European interests driven by raw material diplomacy and can therefore be of little use to Africa". [4]

Proposed projects

An internal document produced by the Steering Committee of the Khartoum Process and obtained by Statewatch provides further details on the type of projects that are being carried out. Entitled 'Sharm El Sheikh Plan of Action', it lists projects that are to be "further studied and discussed with a view to their rapid implementation and to present their follow up status at the following meeting." [5]

On the African side, projects include everything from "Supporting National Insolvent Factories" in Egypt to "Strengthening the Human and Institutional Capacity of the Government of state of Eritrea in the fight against human trafficking and smuggling" and "improving border management capacity" in South Sudan. Egypt looks set to play a central role, with two projects aiming to transfer to other states the country's experience in "combatting illegal migration":

  • "Technical Assistance and Cooperation among Law Enforcement Authorities responsible for combatting illegal migration for African Countries, members of the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative";
  • "Transfer of the national experience in establishing institutional coordinating mechanisms to combat illegal migration to the interested African countries."

From the European side, only the EU (represented by the Commission), France, Germany, Italy and the UK are listed in the April 2015 Plan of Action as participating in any projects. They include:

  • "Assistance to existing reception camps in terms of security and education in Horn of Africa countries" (Italy/Germany);
  • "Training Centre for the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative (Khartoum Process) countries at the Police Academy in Cairo" (Italy);
  • "Field study and livelihood training in a refugee camp in Ethiopia" (UK);
  • "Cooperation through Egypt with the countries of the Horn of Africa in the field of human trafficking and forged documents (police training) (France);
  • "Resettlement of victims of human trafficking from the Horn of Africa" (Germany).

Some further detail can be found in the European Commission's 2015 work programme for the EU's Internal Security Fund - Police. The document, published in June 2015, announced that €750,000 would be made available for the Khartoum Process:

"Home Affairs funds will provide support to the launching and implementation of the Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative through a targeted action supporting the competent authorities of the EU Member States in their fight against the organised crime networks active in migrant smuggling and human trafficking along the Horn of Africa Migration Route towards Europe. The activities supported through this project will have a direct impact in the EU contributing to maintain and improve the internal security of the EU."

Activities that may be financed include, amongst other things:

  • Support for deploying Member States' liaison officers to the region;
  • Supporting the coordination and exchange of information between liaison officers in the region, ensuring that "Europol and Frontex are fully involved in the exchange and analysis of information, whenever relevant";
  • "Support to networking, exchange of information, training, mentoring and other capacity-building activities between the competent authorities of EU Member States and partner countries in the region";

The ongoing refugee crisis has spurred an intensification in discussions between the EU, its Member States and "partner" countries.

In mid-November the high-level Valletta Summit will take place in Malta and bring together "EU and African leaders of the countries parties to the Khartoum Process and the Rabat Process as well as the ECOWAS Committee and the African Union Commission." UN officials and International Organisation for Migration are also likely to be present.

According to the Commission, the summit "will be a key moment to show the new priority of migration issues in the EU's relations with African partners." [6] The meeting will adopt "a political declaration and an action plan/outcome document with ongoing and new priority actions to address migration challenges." It seems likely that for EU Member States, the main focus will continue to be the outsourcing of border controls. [7]

[1] Declaration of the Ministerial Conference of the Khartoum Process, 28 November 2014
[2] AEDH, 'The Khartoum Process, a further step in Euro-African dialogue', undated
[3] Yepoka Yeebo, 'EU trade deal will likely crush industry in West Africa', Quartz, 2 October 2014
[4] Dario Sarmadi, 'EU-Africa free trade agreement 'destroys' development policy, says Merkel advisor', EurActiv, 7 November 2014; Nicodemus Ikonko, 'Why Africa should not embrace EPAs - Mkapa', IPP Media, 15 February 2012
[5] Steering Committee of the Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative (Khartoum Process), 'Sharm El Sheikh Plan of Action', DS 1250/15, 27 April 2015
[6] European Commission, 'Managing the refugee crisis: immediate operational, budgetary and legal measures under the European Agenda on Migration', COM(2015) 490 final, 23 September 2015
[7] Presidency, 'Migration: EU action, state of play and next steps', 11782/1/15 REV 1, 11 September 2015
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