Little new on migration in Commission's plan for a "comprehensive strategy with Africa"

Last week the European Commission published a communication setting out a plan for a "comprehensive strategy with Africa", which includes "migration and mobility" amongst its five key themes. The document is intended to frame talks between the EU and the AU as they move towards a summit in October this year.

There is little novel in the section on migration, which in recent years has dominated the EU's relationship with African countries. Particularly controversial has been the use of development aid funding for projects intended to halt migration towards the EU (Oxfam, link).

Noting the benefits of "well-managed migration and mobility", the Commission's communication highlights that the EU should continue to resettle refugees, but also calls for more action "to prevent irregular migration and putting an end to the loss of life at sea."

"Capacity building for effective migration management, including effective border management is particularly important, and the EU should continue to support African partners in this area," says the document.

Niger is currently the prime example of a country that has accepted EU recommendations - and the accompanying funding - on "migration management", with a crackdown on irregular migration in recent years. However, the result has been people using more dangerous routes (Reuters, link) in order to avoid new border controls (The Migrant Project, link).

EU paves the way for a stronger, more ambitious partnership with Africa (Commission press release, link):

"The European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy today proposed the basis for a new strategy with Africa. The communication sets out proposals to intensify cooperation through partnerships in five key areas: green transition; digital transformation; sustainable growth and jobs; peace and governance; and migration and mobility. Based on this document, Europe will engage discussions with African partners towards a new joint strategy to be endorsed at the European Union – African Union Summit in October 2020."

European Commission communication: Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa (JOIN(2020) 4 final, 9 March 2020, pdf)

From the document:

V. Partners on migration and mobility

Demographic trends, the aspiration for economic opportunity and political stability, flight from crises and conflicts, and adaptation to climate change and environmental degradation, all mean that the levels of migration and forced displacement will continue to pose both challenges and opportunities for our two continents.

Well-managed migration and mobility can have a positive impact on countries of origin, transit and destination alike. African migration and mobility flows are largely intra-African and regimes for free movement are being put in place at both regional and continental level. Some African Union Member States host a substantial number of migrants, refugees and forcibly displaced persons and thus face significant challenges and opportunities. Migration also represent challenges and opportunities for EU Member States.

Since 2015, the EU and African countries have developed a joint approach to managing migration and mobility. 16 This approach has led to a reduction in irregular arrivals in Europe, improved cooperation on the fight against migrant smuggling, and in developing more sustainable approaches for refugees in hosting countries in Africa.

Yet significant challenges remain. Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than a quarter of the world’s refugee population. Dangerous journeys and attempts to cross the Mediterranean continue to cause loss of life and to fuel criminal business. To address such challenges Africa and the EU need a balanced, coherent and comprehensive approach to migration and mobility, guided by the principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility and based on the respect for human rights and international law. The joint goal for EU and African partners should be sustainable and effective migration management.

Across all activities, the EU will continue to pay particular attention to respecting its core values and in particular to taking into account the particular needs of persons in vulnerable situations, including women, children, unaccompanied minors and persons with disabilities.

The protection of those in need, such as refugees, internally displaced persons and other vulnerable displaced persons should remain a common priority. The EU remains committed to helping African partners address refugee crises and find durable solutions for refugees in hosting countries. The EU should equally continue efforts to resettle persons in need of international protection to Europe.

Strengthened engagement to prevent irregular migration and putting an end to the loss of life at sea is needed. This includes stepping up the fight against the smuggling of migrants, with an emphasis on addressing the role of criminal networks and should go hand in hand with the fight against trafficking in human beings. Capacity building for effective migration management, including effective border management is particularly important, and the EU should continue to support African partners in this area. Further action is also needed to tackle the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement building on the varied support provided through the EU Trust Fund for Africa.

Cooperation on return and readmission, and effective return rates should be improved. The EU and Africa should work towards more efficient and sustainable mechanisms, including through support for voluntary returns, and through the effective implementation and conclusion of readmission arrangements. Returns should be accompanied by sustainable reintegration in the countries of origin.

In parallel, stepped up cooperation on legal migration can provide significant two-way benefits, providing employment opportunities that match the needs of the labour market on both continents. Projects on legal and circular migration and labour mobility with African countries and efforts to improve the development benefits of migration, including through facilitation of remittances, could significantly contribute to regular and safe migration and mobility.

Proposed Action 9 – Partner with Africa to ensure a balanced, coherent and comprehensive approach to migration and mobility.

This will be done by embedding migration and mobility in a balanced manner in our overall partnership at all levels. We will pursue a ‘whole-of-route’ approach, working with countries of origin, transit and destination. A strong focus on improving migration governance, partner countries' ability to better manage their borders, strengthening capacities and evidence-based cooperation will also be applied.

At continental level, the EU proposes to put in place a joint framework for the Continent-to-Continent Migration and Mobility Dialogue and continue to enhance the AU-EU-UN trilateral cooperation, building on the successful experience of the Task Force on Migration. At regional level, the EU proposes to advance the implementation of the Joint Valletta Action Plan and the Khartoum and Rabat processes together with the AU, the UN, the EU Member States and regional organisations.

At bilateral level, the EU should develop tailor-made dialogues and partnerships as part of its overall relationships with African countries. It is important to ensure the complementarity and the added value of the existing and future cooperation frameworks.


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