Valletta Summit: Can EU and Africa find common ground regarding refugee crisis?

As EU meets African countries at Valletta summit, in general it seems both sides have some different agenda. The EU wants to find the way how to keep potential migrants home, African countries wanna find more legal ways for them to go to Europe. In your opinion, where do you see some common ground for both sides and what should be the EU’s approach? Read few comments.

Lorenzo NannettiInternational Affairs Analyst

Both side actually share the same concern: they don’t want migrants into their countries and would like them to move/stay somewhere else. Of course, each one sees the other as the “perfect” destination. Probably the best approach is something that combines both parts. Europe can’t hope to send migrants away if there’s no economic substrate in Africa deep enough to keep them in (ie: if they can’t find stability or suitable jobs in Africa once repulsed from EU, they will just try again to get to Europe, and this will fuel trafficking that will always exist due to poor economic situation)

So the only long-term solution is EU helping African countries in developing economically and in stability, because this will cut numbers moving AND will give people sent back from Europe a chance to stay there and not try again to enter. Of course, this is a decades-long project that has no quick result in sight. So in the meantime, there should be an effort in mitigating some points, again by working with African countries:
– more processing of asylum-seekers in African countries. But this won’t be enough, as those refused will still try to find a way North.
– for several tribes and groups, trafficking is the only way of life and revenue. If I have to spend millions in warships patrolling the med, I can just use part of this to develop local economies. Economic deals could help in the short term before longer effects take root.
– local officials are often complicit, as their salaries are too low. EU could pay local officers and guards in a joint program aimed at controlling smuggling and trafficking, by giving them a higher salary in exchange for verifiable results on routes (Spain is doing this in Mauritania and Morocco, and it works)
– promote better governance based on results in several countries – there needs to be a cut in corruption and mismanagement of funds. Or any aid means nothing.
– give economic aid aimed at decreasing disparity, not just developing economy. This is a key point: Nigeria is developing a lot and is becoming rich by looking at GDP only. But if you look at GINI Index, which tracks inequality, you see there are too few rich people and too many poor people – as noted by The Economist too in a recent article on the fact that African countries (with the exception of South Africa) have very little middle classes, which means most people is still too poor, despite economic advances. A booming economy with large population (in Nigeria, it will rise considerably in the next 10-20 years) but too much inequality means lots of people will try to flee – or arm themselves (see Boko Haram).
In short, a multi-pronged cooperation that will be both long term and with some short-term. Yes, it’s difficult and yes, it requires farsight. Something EU has failed to have in recent years… but that is, more or less, the way.

Daniela IrreraAssistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Catania

The Valletta summit is an event which was absolutely needed and is expected to improve cooperation on bilateral basis. However, it is hard to say it will solve something or it will produce some tangible results in terms of policy.
Looking at the agenda and at the list of points which will be raised during the meeting, one has the impression it is nothing new, particularly as for ‘organizing legal migration channels’ and ‘tackling the exploitation and trafficking of migrants.
One point on which such discussion may make the difference is, instead, ‘addressing the root causes by working to create peace, stability and economic development’.
I would have preferred to read ‘conflict resolution’ as part of this statement. The civil war in Syria and the deep instability in Libya are undoubtedly the main theaters on which the EU should concentrate its efforts, to avoid more migrants in he next spring.
Nobody says the EU can take a unilateral position, since there other actors involved in both regions. However, the dialogue with African partners can represent a good starting point for developing a broader strategy which is not only based on the management of floods and the allocation of people.

David ShinnAdjunct Professor of International Affairs, The George Washington University, Former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and to Burkina Faso

I think African migrants must abide the the laws of the European countries and not expect exceptions to be made and most European countries need to revisit the number of immigrants, economic migrants and requests for political asylum they are willing to receive annually.   In some cases, the European countries need to increase these numbers. This will not solve the problem as supply will still exceed demand but it will improve the situation and may decrease the number trying to depart if they know everyone is trying to follow the rules.

Marco Di Liddo, Analista, Desk Africa, Balcani ed Ex URSS, Ce.S.I. – Centro Studi Internazionali

The European Union – Africa summit of 11 – 12 November on migration emergency is likely to result in a stalemate. Indeed, European institutions and of African States position on the management of migration could further drift away.

The reasons of the dispute are two: the question of repatriation and the question of the treatment of migrants.

Regarding the first point,  European Union would like to change the legislation on repatriation, now governed by bilateral agreements between States, encouraging the creation of a single European mechanism of repatriation. According to the idea of Brussels, any EU Member State would have the right to repatriate  an illegal immigrant to the country of origin. This repatriation would take place regardless of the country of origin and from any potential  destination country.

By contrast, African countries are pushing for a  legislation that facilitates the choice of migrants and the regulation of voluntary returns.

Regarding the second point, the division between European Union and Africa is even more pronounced. In fact, while European Union, pressed by an uncontrolled migration flow, tends strongly to distinguish economic migrants (those who are fleeing poverty and trying to improve their economic status and condition) from political migrants, those who flee war and persecution, and that can be defined asylum seekers and potential refugees.

on the contrary, African countries would like  the easing of this distinction and that economic migrants should enjoy the same treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

The distinction between asylum seekers and economic migrants is essential in law. In fact, asylum seekers cannot be repatriated, because of the Geneva Convention of 1951. In the same way, offering to economic migrants the same protection offered to potential refugees would risk to determine a dangerous legal and policy confusion on the issue.

The other point of discord concerns the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. It has a budget of € 1.8 billion due in 28 African countries over the next five years, the Fund intends to strengthen stability in Africa and address the root causes of irregular migration in the Sahel, the Lake Chad, the Horn ‘Africa and North Africa.

Many African countries believe such a figure inadequate to fight poverty and underdevelopment, root causes of migration.

In summary, the summit in Malta could be a fiasco and leave unresolved all the problems related to migration.

To be clear, it must be underlined a crucial preliminary point: the increase in the flow of migrants has not yet generated new political problems, but has tightened and radicalized long standing criticality, mainly because of the economic crisis and the mood of discontent, distrust and deception to public institutions that it helps to feed. However, there is no denying that, at a time when it had to offer a proof of political cohesion, unity of purpose and strategic sharing of political and humanitarian goals, European Union as a whole has proved to be incapable of offering credible answers. This blank has exacerbated and underlined the limits of a Union that still torn by partisan interests and unskilled in stifling the traditional temptations of nationalism. In fact, it is not a coincidence that euro-skeptical movements often correspond, in most cases, with anti-immigration movement.

Stated that no man leaves his home and his homeland and no father will endanger his lives and those of their family without a good reason, the real challenge is to neutralize the causes of poverty and instability that origin both wars and flow of migrants and refugees.

In this sense, there is no better strategy to help the governments of the countries of departure in creating social, educational and economic conditions to ensure a decent standard of living for citizens. Try to close borders or to erect walls to block a human river in search of freedom and dignity is a short-sighted policy and an inhumane and dishonorable action.

Rather it appears much more farsighted to strengthen bilateral and multilateral partnerships for the realization of long-term humanitarian programs that allow men to find their own paradise and realize their own dreams and desires without the need to leave their homeland. Similarly, it is needed an improvement of the mechanisms for dialogue and military-security cooperation to promptly address together the sources of instability and subversive threats of any nature. If there is a lesson that the migratory crisis has taught the world it is that today the internal criticality of a  single State necessarily have a reverb for all international actors. Therefore, the problem of one country becomes the problem of most countries. Only together we can think of to deal with it and fix it properly

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