Returns and lack of readmission agreements highlight reluctance of African states to comply with EU demands


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In a letter to Claude Moraes (pdf), Chair of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), the Director-General of of Migration and Home Affairs sets out the present situation of readmissions.

Despite the Commission's attempts to set up return and readmission agreements, especially in Africa:

"Most third countries however, do not want to engage in negotiations on readmission agreements mainly due to internal political considerations, as such agreements can be a source of public hostility. As a result, the ongoing negotiations with Morocco and Algeria are at a standstill and those that were launched in 2016 with Nigeria, Jordan and Tunisia have not progressed as needed. The EU must therefore remain flexible on the form a cooperation framework takes, and focus on the feasibility of achieving results, while respecting international and European law." [emphasis added throughout].

As there is a great reluctance to sign formal binding return and readmission agreements, which the European Parliament has to agree to, the Commission is seeking to set up "practical cooperation" where the parliament is simply informed:

"These arrangements aim to facilitate cooperation on the readmission of own nationals, which is an obligation under international customary law in general and under various cooperation agreements – such as the Cotonou Agreement (Article 13) for ACP countries. Being non-legally binding, they do not have any effect on Member States' and third country's obligations under international, EU and national law, and do not have an impact on the rights of irregular migrants."

Afghanistan and Mali

The Letter notes that 54,385 refugee arrived from Afghanistan in 2016 (and most are still in the EU) this dropped to 3,125 in the first seven months of 2017. However, the return rate is very slow:

"The total number of returns to Afghanistan (including voluntary) increased from 1,520 in 2015 to 8,325 in 2016. At the same time, since its entry into force, 17 charter flights have taken place with 269 returnees on board."

But a Council Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA) has cast doubt on EU policy of "safe" return of refugees to Afghanistan saying: "We are concerned at the deteriorating humanitarian situation"

In Mali the "practical approach" backfired:

"Standard Operating Procedures for the identification and return of persons without an authorisation to stay had been negotiated by the Commission with Mali in 2016. This arrangement was endorsed by the JHA Council on 8 December 2016, but Mali eventually retracted from the foreseen signature. The arrangement is therefore not agreed and not being implemented. A reopening of discussions with the Malian authorities is not foreseen for the time being."

The "standard procedures" mentioned were approved by the Justice and Home Affairs Council at their meeting on 8-9 December. See: Draft Standard Operating Procedures between the EU and the Republic of Mali for the identification and return of persons without an authorisation to stay (15050/16, LIMITE, 6 December 2016, pdf).

Mali is one of G5 Sahel force targeted by the EU together with Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, see: EU-backed 'G5 Sahel' security mission starts operations as Europeans hope to stem migration flows (Statewatch News). Mali is one of the five targeted African countries - together with Niger,Nigeria, Ethiopia and Senegal - under the EU's "Partnership Framework" initiative which threatens that non-cooperation will lead to "consequences" through the loss of aid and trade.

Annex to the Letter - return rates

There are no return rates for 2016 for Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Senegal While Chad has a 7.1% (30) return rate of 420 ordered to leave, Mauritania has a 3.4% (40) return rate of 1,185 ordered to leave and Burkina Faso a return rate of 5.2% (45) of 870 ordered to leave.

The highest rates of return to Africa are: South Africa 72.4% (460) of 635 ordered to leave, Uganda 29.8% (140) of 470 ordered to leave and Sierra Leone 14.6% (105) of 720 ordered to leave.

See also: The EU goes to war with African “elite” (Statewatch Analysis)

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