EU Signals Plan With African, Mideast Nations to Stem Migration

The European Commission announced a plan to work with African and Middle Eastern governments to manage migrant flows (European Commission). The commission said its priority will be to save lives lost in unsafe crossings to the bloc and to help partner nations address the root causes of mass migration. The announcement builds off a similar deal established with Turkey in March to stem the tide of refugees arriving on Greek islands and may include security support for nations with troubled human rights records (BBC) such as Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. The proposal includes incentives for Middle Eastern and African countries such as improved trade terms, visa deals, and access to a proposed $70 billion investment fund (FT). The United Nations said on Tuesday that ten thousand people had died attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe since 2014 (Middle East Eye).


“For the EU, the deals would come at a price. Following the Turkey deal, in which Ankara won €6bn in aid, European Council president Donald Tusk warned that Europe ran the risk of ‘blackmail’ by potential partners. To some extent, this warning has been borne out. Countries on migratory routes to the EU know that they have leverage and have proven willing to name their price. In May, Niger demanded an extra €1bn — roughly a seventh of its total gross domestic product — from the EU just to help it halt the flow of people who head through the country on their way to Europe. The EU investment fund’s headline figure of €62bn looks large. But for the moment it is a mirage. The commission will put aside €3.1bn and ask national capitals to match this total — something that they have not always been willing to do,” Duncan Robinson writes for the Financial Times.

“The deal with Turkey was roundly criticized by human rights groups and the United Nations for violating international law protecting asylum seekers. The deal was signed with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an autocrat, who has attacked the news media and freedom of expression. If the European Union does not do better on dealing with migration from Africa, it will further damage to its credibility as a model of democracy and human rights,” writes the New York Times.

“Democracy, in other words, does not necessarily guarantee that an African country can keep its people at home. Nigeria had its first peaceful transfer of power to a different party in 2015. But it is also the largest source of migrants to Italy so far this year. The other big sources are Gambia, Somalia, Ivory Coast, and Eritrea. In many cases, people are fleeing repression or violence. But also, as Africa’s overall economy has outpaced the rest of the world’s in recent decades, a rising middle class simply has more money to spend on smugglers—about $2,000 a trip—to get to Europe,” writes the Christian Science Monitor.