Summit Europe-Africa on immigration problem: political statements and action plan by 2016
On 11 and 12 November, in La Valletta, over sixty Heads of State and Government of European and African countries gathered for a summit on the issue of immigration. This summit was, in fact, organized by the European Union to tackle the immigration emergency in cooperation with the countries of origin in Africa. On this summit, the EU was represented by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission.
The purpose of the this meeting is to strengthen cooperation on migration and choose how to face the current challenges and opportunities.
During the opening speech of the summit Donald Tusk said: “As you know this meeting was suggested after the tragedy on 19 April, when hundreds of people lost their lives in the Mediterranean sea. This called on us to increase our efforts to try to stop such things from happening. The European Union took on the heavy responsibility of trying to save as many lives as possible. But this is dealing only with the symptoms”. As a result ” The only way we can manage migration is by working together. Our purpose today is to agree a joint approach and concrete steps so that migration becomes fruitful exchange between our peoples, and not a tragic loss to all. We have a joint responsibility, and we must deliver on it in partnership and solidarity. That is why we are here. ”
The conference is part of the path traced by the cooperational processes already underway between Europe and Africa, in particular the processes of Rabat and Khartoum on migration and the EU-Africa dialogue on migration and mobility.
“Europe is taking its responsibility – saving lives, welcoming refugees and those entitled to international protection, offering more organised routes for legal migration, and dismantling criminal organisations,” said Tusk.
“We need our African partners to help us better address our common challenges. We have no choice but to be partners in this” said Donald Tusk.
“One of the strengths of our partnership is that we can have open and honest conversations about even difficult subjects. We have these within the EU all the time. Migration is a sensitive political topic within and amongst the EU Member States, as I am sure it is among African states too. But we have to discuss it to find the right way forward for all of us”.
In the words of Tusk there is the realization that “migration creates both challenges and opportunities and it affects us all – countries of origin, transit and destination. The number of people on the move globally has never been so big. Both Africa and Europe are put under heavy pressure trying to manage the scale and its effects on local communities”.
The decision to meet with the African leaders had been taken last April, when the Heads of State and Government of the EU had participated in a special Council meeting after yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean. Since then, the emergency has shifted to the EU’s eastern borders, the so-called Balkan route, but flows from Africa will remain consistent in the future, while those from the East depend on the crisis in Syria. According to the latest statistics, reported by the Tusk, about 1.2 million migrants have entered Europe illegally so far this year, mostly by sea.
President Tusk said that ” Firstly, one of our biggest responsibilities is to address the root causes of the movements we are seeing. It is our job, as leaders, to ensure that people do not feel the need to risk their lives to achieve their aspirations. Security and opportunity are things that Europe and Africa already work on together” said Tusk.
As a consequence, ” This means making our extensive development assistance more efficient, more targeted; creating more opportunities for young people to work. It also means stepping up our efforts to prevent and stop conflicts, and to help countries build systems of government that are accountable and open, that reinforce the rule of law, that respect human rights”.
President Tusk continued its analysis of the situation: “Secondly, people’s aspirations and needs have to be met first and foremost at home. Legal migration can offer opportunities for some, but not for all. Routes for legal migration to Europe should remain open; mobility between our continents is a driver for growth on both sides”.
The analysis of Tusk ends with the need for urgent action, ” to prevent the trafficking of human beings and the illegal smuggling of migrants by criminal gangs whose only motive is their own profit.”
An aspect that the President of the European Council mentioned in the summit is the need to handle even the refugees and asylum seekers. “The EU and African countries have a history of protecting those entitled to international protection. We are ready to step up our support to you to help you deal with the displaced persons within Africa. At the same time, we will continue to offer international protection to those entitled to it ” he concludes.
Tusk “proper return and readmission of those not entitled to international protection is essential. This is an international norm, and a responsibility of states to citizens. To keep the doors open for refugees and legal migrants, irregular migrants should be returned effectively and quickly. Voluntary return is always preferable. But when it is not possible, non-voluntary return is a pre-requisite for a well-managed migration policy. And once returned, we must all work together to reintegrate these people and provide them with the means to meet their aspirations”.
Claude Juncker, regarding the relocation of migrants, is a bit pessimistic. The process has been slow and, at current rates, with 130 refugees redistributed in about a month from Italy and Greece to the rest of the European countries, “the relocation of 160 thousand persons decided by the EU will be completed on Jan. 1, 2101,” said the European Commission President at the end of the informal summit of EU leaders ended in Valletta.
Juncker said that he was “totally dissatisfied” by the pace of operations even though none of the Member States today, “questioned the need to proceed with this system.”
A first important step was the signing between the European Union and Ethiopia of a joint declaration on joint management of migration, which reflects “the importance of Ethiopia as a key country of origin, transit and destination of irregular migrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa to Europe.”
The cooperation will cover the issues of international protection needs of migrants, legal migration and mobility, irregular migration, human trafficking, development policies. They will be made available funds for the implementation of concrete activities, through the “trust fund” emergency in which the Commission has already allocated 1.8 billion.
“Ethiopia is the main host country of refugees in Africa – said Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker – with 733,000 refugees. His government needs and deserves the support of EU. Ethiopia is also a country of origin and transit of illegal immigration in Europe: we need to work together to better manage these flows in respect for human rights “.
The elements of the Action Plan, political declaration stated on La Valletta summit, are designed to:
– One, address the root causes of migration;
– Two, enhance cooperation on legal migration and mobility;
– Three, reinforce protection of displaced persons;
– Four, prevent and fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings;
– Five, advance on returning persons that are not entitled to stay in Europe.
Those are the goals. What is equally, or maybe even more important, is that we have agreed a long list of very concrete actions to be implemented by the end of 2016”. said the Prime Minister European.
Among these actions there is the start of some projects to increase employment opportunities in the regions of origin and transit countries in East, North and West Africa. It’s plan to encourage the Erasmus program, doubling the number of scholarships for students and researchers. Until the half of 2016 will also realise regional protection programs and development programs in the Horn of Africa and North Africa. To prevent and fight smuggling and trafficking of migrants will be set up a joint investigation team in Niger, which, if it will prove useful, will can use in other countries or regions.
As far as concerned the question of voluntary returns, they will be encouraged through a series of concrete measures, such as officials trips to Europe of African immigration that help to verify and identify the nationality of illegal migrants.
To help the agreement, also, it was created the EU Trust Fund with a budget of at least EUR 1.8 billion, in addition to development aid from the EU and the Member States for countries Africans, for twenty billion per year.
” We are under no illusions that we can improve the situation overnight. But we are committed to giving people alternatives to risking their lives,” concludes Tusk.
The Commission has made available for the African continent one billion and eight hundred million Euros, through the Trust Fund. This is a financial instrument that should address the root causes of economic migration and support twenty-three countries of origin and transit in the Sahel, the African Horn and North Africa. The Brussels executive asked to the twenty-eight European governments (and the EU partners) contributions to double the amount made available by the Community budget, but despite the promises made at the top of September and October, the member states have offered until today only a little over 81.2 million. Therefore it needs more than 1.7 billion target of 3.6 billion totals.
About the Trust Fund for Syria so far they have been mobilized 40.48 million of euros by the states and 500 by the Commission, but the goal is to reach one billion euro in aid.
Humanitarian aid is quite complete: the twenty-eight States arrived 442,740 million, EU gave 500 million. So there are missing only 57, 26 million. For Africa they have so far made payments 25 Member States on 28 and two space EFTA countries (Norway and Switzerland).
But there have been negative reactions to the decisions taken at the summit in Malta. Some non-governmental organizations and human rights groups argue that financial contributions are only promised as a reward for repressive policies that block migration at source. They said, that this kind of cooperation is a plan to exploits to third countries border control on outsource. In this summit there were some dictators of this Countries, The ONGs denounced that a dictators are the main cause of the abuses that force people to flee.
ONGs protest also concerning the risk to support security policies in the countries of origin of migrants, implementing border controls and methods of deterrence, while the real problem is not addressed faces is how to get there, safely, people in Europe.
The choice to make readmission agreements to these countries and for Europe is considered “democratic enough” was denounced by ONGs. Some countries have democratic deficits, as Eritrea -that is on trial for crimes against humanity-, as Sudan -currently under a military dictatorship-, as Ethiopia -where the government still govern with the use of force and the persecution of opponents-, and as Somalia -without a central government and which is considered one of the most violent states and the world’s poor.