In its latest attempt to reduce the mass flow of migrants and refugees from Africa to Europe, the European Union announced on Thursday that it was putting $1.9 billion in a trust fund for African countries, and it is asking individual members to match the amount with their own contributions.
European leaders are catchily branding the initiative as an "emergency trust fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa." It was announced at a migration summit in Malta, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it had been set up "at a record speed."
According to the European Commission, the fund will be directed toward the "most fragile and vulnerable countries across Africa," specifically targeting the Sahel region, the Lake Chad area, the Horn of Africa, and northern Africa — those being the "major African migration routes to Europe."
The resources will finance programs that create employment opportunities, provide basic services, improve overall governance, and also specifically aim to decrease migration by "containing and preventing irregular migration, effective return and readmission, international protection and asylum, legal migration and mobility, and enhancing synergies between migration and development." It is as yet unclear how the money will be distributed between the countries and what conditions will accompany it.
While several European states have already pledged to contribute tens of millions of euros, Juncker said he hoped for more funding, and called on European members states to match the amount already put up.
But EU members have yet to make significant pledges, and African leaders such as Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou say that $2 billion — which comes in addition to more than $20 billion that the EU and its members already contribute to Africa — is not enough. There should be less aid and more investment, they say, and multinationals should pay their taxes. The African Union estimates that the continent loses $50 billion annually through tax fraud and illicit practices by such companies.
"What we want is not just official development assistance in this form but reform of global governance," Issoufou said, referring to the "trade versus aid" debate. "World trade must be fair. There must be more investment in Africa. Official development assistance is good but it's not sufficient."
Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke argued that Africa needs investment rather than charity, while Senegal's President Macky Sall said that the causes of migration lie elsewhere, and that further measures are required.
"If we could combat tax evasion, that would stop us calling for aid," Sall said. "Terrorism is an issue, wherever war is waged people flee — where there's less development people flee towards development."
"We have to look at migration serenely, take the drama out of it," he added. "And we have to tackle the traffickers."
As for the $50 billion the African Union estimates the continent loses to tax fraud and illicit practices by multinationals, it's uncertain exactly how much of this is the responsibility of Europe and European companies. But Sara Tesorieri, policy advisor at Oxfam, said that she "would feel pretty comfortable saying Europe's share is probably bigger than $2 billion."
Tesorieri also noted that the figure promised in the new Africa fund is relatively paltry.
"In development terms," she said, "when you're spending [$2 billion] across a number of years and 23 countries, it's actually quite a small amount."
Meanwhile, the population of Africa is expected to double to 2.5 billion by 2050.
"We have a great deal of work ahead of us," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the Malta migration summit. Germany has proved to be one of the most desired destinations for migrants and refugees this year, with more than 200,000 people arriving in September alone and 800,000 anticipated to apply for asylum by year's end.
On Wednesday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble warned that an "avalanche" of refugees could be headed toward the country.
"You can trigger avalanches when a rather careless skier goes on to the slope… and moves a bit of snow," he said. "I don't know whether we are already at the stage where the avalanche has reached the valley or whether we are [still] on the first third of the slope [and there is more to come]."
Germany, which over the summer was seen to be leading the way in opening its doors to Syrians who were arriving there, now seems to be overwhelmed by the number of arrivals. The country is planning to reinstate the Dublin regulation, which calls for logging and fingerprinting asylum seekers in the first European country they arrive in. If they later move on to another, possibly more desirable destination, they should be sent back to that country.
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