European Leaders Look to Africa to Stem Migration

This approach has similarities to that taken by the European Union in its 2016 deal with Turkey in which it agreed to pay Ankara some 6.6 billion euros ($7.9 billion) to keep migrants from crossing the Mediterranean, and help Turkey provide them with refugee camps. That agreement also permitted Greece to send back those who made it to its shores. The policy all but halted the flow of people taking the route through Turkey into Europe. In the first eight months of 2016, nearly 163,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean entering through Greece. This year during the same period, just 14,000 came by the same route.

It is unclear if the proposals outlined Monday will require additional expenditures. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign affairs and security policy chief, who attended the meeting in Paris, said there was no need for “to invent a new Marshall Plan” for Africa since the European Union and individual European countries together already invest some 20 billion euros (about $24 billion) annually in African development aid and other programs.

Any European Union funds or programs might require the approval of other member countries.

Another spur for the policies agreed to Monday is the recent success that Italy has had in reducing the number of migrants arriving on its shores, said President Emmanuel Macron of France. He praised the Italian efforts to work with Libya’s coast guard. “What has been done by Italy and Libya is a perfect example of what we are aiming for,” Mr. Macron said.

Italy’s policies have involved pushing Libya to crack down on traffickers and stopping ships operated by nongovernmental organizations that rescue migrants when their boats sink or capsize unless the organizations meet strict requirements.

The tough Italian government official whom many credit with reducing arriving migrants – or accuse of introducing draconian policies – is Interior Minister Marco Minniti. On Monday, as the European and African leaders gathered in Paris, Mr. Minniti met in Rome with Libyan mayors and representatives from Chad, Niger and Mali. Mr. Minniti, who knows Libya well from his years as Italy’s spymaster, has emerged as a powerful force in recent months, playing a central role in negotiations with Libyan leaders and applying a stricter code of conduct to international aid ships operating just outside Libyan waters.

Since mid-July, Italy has experienced a major reduction in migrants reaching its shores. Just over 4,000 migrants have come in since then, about a fifth the number who came during the same period in the last three years.

While the exact reasons for the drop are unclear, Mr. Minniti’s strong hand appears to be paying off. His office released a statement after he met with the African officials expressing satisfaction with the Paris meeting’s Africa-focused agenda. Mr. Minniti has invested heavily in alliances with African power brokers, Libyan tribal leaders and mayors of towns afflicted by trafficking.

In a recent interview, Mr. Minniti said that in earlier meetings with Libyan mayors, they discussed “a type of pact.”

“You help us stop human traffickers,” he recounted telling them, “and we will help free you from the blackmail of the human traffickers. Because in this moment, the human trafficking is an economic circuit. It’s perhaps one of the few businesses that works in Libya, and like all business, it pays salaries — naturally criminal salaries. To challenge this criminal income, you have to create a transparent income. Good money that drives away the bad money.”

Not everyone in Italy is comfortable with the tough approach. Last week, the police in Rome used water cannon as they evicted hundreds of migrants, many of whom had been granted refugee status, from an apartment building they had illegally occupied for years in the center of town. Critics called the removals inhumane and unfair, because Italy failed to help provide many of the migrants with housing after they attained legal status as refugees.

Continue reading the main story

Comments

comments

Comments are closed.