EU offers more ‘aid’ to deport migrants, Africa resists

By James G. Neuger and Karl Stagno Navarra

(Bloomberg) — European Union plans to clamp down on migration met resistance from African leaders, who called on the EU to open more channels for their people to live and work legally in Europe.

At a summit in Valletta, Malta, the EU offered more development aid in exchange for an African pledge to take back – – or “re-admit” — more people who cross the Mediterranean Sea and settle in European cities without job or residence rights.

EU and African leaders take part in group photo during the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015. Leaders of the European Union met African counterparts on Malta on Wednesday, hoping pledges of cash and other aid can slow the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from the world's poorest continent to wealthy Europe. REUTERS/Yves Herman
EU and African leaders take part in group photo during the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015. Leaders of the European Union met African counterparts on Malta on Wednesday, hoping pledges of cash and other aid can slow the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from the world’s poorest continent to wealthy Europe. REUTERS/Yves Herman

“Readmission is a difficult subject, we can’t just have this discussion from the European perspective,” Macky Sall, president of Senegal, told reporters Wednesday before the summit. He called for a “frank discussion” of legalizing the status of Africans already in Europe.

The clash over deportation or legalization echoed debates over immigration in the U.S. presidential campaign, and showed how hard it is for Europe to get to grips with the continent’s biggest wave of migrants and refugees since the end of World War II.

Read also: Calais crisis: UK unable to home ‘swarm’ of African migrants

‘Demands and Expectations’

Europe’s open societies and porous land and sea borders make deportation difficult. Fewer than 40 percent of “irregular” migrants who were ordered out of European territory in 2014 actually left, EU data show. Some throw away their passports to make them hard to identify and trace.

“We have to be firmer about readmissions,” French President Francois Hollande said.

The 28-nation bloc’s main offer at the summit with representatives of more than 30 African countries was a 1.8 billion-euro ($1.9 billion) trust fund that will be used to promote economic growth to keep people at home and to fight the traffickers who exploit those who want to leave.

Read also: Home Secretary: Immigration to UK is overcrowding the island, “must” be cut

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said extra financing comes attached to “clear demands and expectations” directed toward the African side.

EU leaders scheduled the Africa meeting in April, when most migrants were coming through strife-torn Libya across the central Mediterranean Sea. Now most are fleeing Syria or Iraq — not represented at the Malta summit — and passing through Turkey before reaching the European shore in Greece.

The EU-Africa meeting runs until Thursday afternoon, followed by an EU-only summit to review the refugee-control efforts.

Africa unhappy with €1.9bn migration fund

Valletta – The European Union launched a €1.9bn fund on Thursday to tackle migration from Africa, but struggled to impress recipient countries, which accused Europe of focusing too much on sending Africans back home.

“I was hearing speeches both yesterday and today where there was a great deal of convergence, … but there were also some confrontations on where we might disagree,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat acknowledged after hosting a two-day summit that brought together 40 African and European leaders.

Europe has struggled to secure the help of international partners in stemming the flow of migrants and asylum seekers heading its way. More than 800 000 have reached the continent by sea this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

“Many are, of course, asking: ‘Has the problem been solved with this summit?’ No,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “We have with this EU-Africa summit started a new phase of co-operation … But there is also still a lot of work ahead of us.”

The new trust fund, which EU leaders signed into life at the Malta summit, is focused on long-term solutions, such as poverty eradication, conflict resolution and economic development. However, pledges fell short of expectations.

The plan had been to have a €3.6bn pot, with €1.8bn coming from the central EU budget – which was provided – and the rest from national governments. But they had only pledged €81.2m by Thursday afternoon.

“For the Africa Trust Fund and our response to be credible, I want to see more member states contributing and matching the €1.8bn the EU has put forward,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

“The fund is, of course, not enough. What is 1 billion euros?” South Sudanese Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin added. “I think more commitment from Europe is important.”

Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou noted that “the needs are enormous.”

On top of €20bn

But Muscat defended the fund as a “tremendous step forward.” EU President Donald Tusk also noted that it comes on top of €20bn in development aid that Africa already receives annually from the bloc and its 28 member states.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who currently chairs the Economic Community of West African States, also took issue with EU demands that African countries take back failed asylum seekers and other migrants who do not have a legal right to stay in Europe.

“Europe is insisting too much on this [aspect],” Sall said, protesting that it was “discriminatory” to expel Africans, while keeping Syrian refugees. He also noted that most migrants to Europe do not come from his continent.

According to the European Asylum Support Office, the top five areas of origin for the more than 1 million asylum seekers registered in EU states in January-September were: Syria, the Western Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

“Why all this energy for African migrants? … It is not reasonable,” Sall said, charging that “the real fundamental questions” were being avoided at the summit.

After wrapping up their talks with the African partners, EU leaders were holding a separate summit in Valletta expected to focus on the attempt to stem migration flows from Turkey, but overshadowed by Swedish and Slovenian decisions to tighten their borders.

DPA