28 August 2017

Africa: Migration Summit Offers Prospect of Aid and Legal Routes

Photo: Libération
(file photo)

European and African leaders have met to discuss a "new relationship" to help stem illegal immigration. EU nations want to offer African nations aid - and possibly legal migration "hotspots" - in return for their help.

Leaders from France, Germany, Italy and Spain met African counterparts on Monday to discuss ways to slow illegal migration.

Among the options on the cards were using development aid to create more opportunities in migrants' own countries, and the possibility of legal application processes for those suffering on humanitarian grounds.

French diplomatic sources said the goal was to produce a common "roadmap" to define priority actions.

The leader of Libya's internationally-backed government, Fayez Serraj - whose country is on the migration route for most would-be arrivals to Europe was present along with the presidents of Niger and Chad, whose nations are often used by migrants for the transition north.

Speaking at the post-summit press conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe had a "humanitarian responsibility" to fight illegal migration and people smugglers who profit from migrants' desperation.

European nations are keen to offer development aid and funding to their African partners in return for help in stemming the flow of economic migrants and asylum seekers.

Hotspots and cold cash

Last month the EU offered 10 million euros ($12 million) in aid to Niger to combat illegal immigration.

Meanwhile, Macron has proposed the establishment of "hotspots" in Africa where asylum seekers could make requests to travel to the EU without taking illegal smuggling routes.

While Merkel said she basically supported the creation of legal migration routes, she stressed at the summit that hotspots should be only for those fleeing on humanitarian grounds. "It can only work when a distinction is made with those who go to Libya to get Europe for economic reasons."

Legal migration would have to be coupled with an end to illegal migration, said Merkel, adding that this was "very, very important."

Poverty as a driving factor

French President Emmanuel Macron said more "effective action" against illegal migration included strengthening European efforts to help African countries improve their economies.

Libyan leader Serraj asked for more support to fight migrant trafficking and in monitoring his chaotic country's southern border.

Chad's president, Idriss Deby Itno, and Niger's president, Mahamadou Issoufou, stressed that the root cause was poverty.

Issoufou said it was important "to find alternatives for the smugglers to leave criminal activity," such as commerce or farming.

In terms of security, the European leaders agreed to help Chad and Niger to secure their borders.

Thousands still dying

Some 125,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean by boat this year, according to UN figures, with the vast majority arriving in Italy before moving on to other EU members. An estimated 2,400 have died en-route.

Earlier on Monday, Italy's interior ministry hosted a meeting of interior ministers from Libya, Chad, Niger and Mali to discuss strategies to thwart human traffickers. Migrants are often put on unseaworthy vessels by people smugglers and, while many are rescued, a large number perish at sea.

(dpa, AP)

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