EU’s new migrant crisis plan problematic
The European Commission has outlined its new 8 billion euro plan to contain the migrant crisis over the next four years but many observers are skeptical.
Under the “New Migration Partnership Framework” Brussels will allocate 3.6 billion euros in development aid and is asking the members to come up with a matching amount.
The money will go to third countries, either of asylum seeker origin or transit in Africa and Middle East, and they will be expected to contain migration towards Europe.
They will also be expected to receive returned migrants, create a mechanism of support for asylum-seekers and tackle the criminal networks specialized in migrant smuggling.
The initiative is meant to copy the agreement with Turkey which allowed Greece to send migrants back to Turkey. In exchange, Turkey received six billion euros and free movement in Europe for its citizens.
In that instance, despite the UNHCR and other NGOs criticising the legality of the deal and the Greek islands’ infrastructure capacity to address asylum seekers, the arrivals from Greece diminished significantly.
But it still remains unclear if the waves of migrants will travel on different routes.
In the latest plan, the European Union will negotiate a series of bilateral agreements with third countries, starting with Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.
The financial distribution will take into consideration these countries’ ability to reduce the flux of migrants, seal the borders and offer protection to the refugees.
But some observers say this is a ‘carrot and stick’ system that throws the hot potato into the lap of third countries which and may prove to be as inefficient as previous attempts.
They say it opens EU to blackmail and may jeopardise the well-being of the refugees caught in the middle.
Countries which decline to take an active part in the plan will see their aid funding from EU cut.
The journal Global Risks Insights (GRI) says the plan is repeating the mistakes of the past.
It cites the example Gaddafi ruled Libya.
“In 2004, Colonel Gaddafi became a European partner and beneficiary of EU funds, with an active role of protecting the European Mediterranean border. No other country benefited more than Italy, but in a notorious visit in 2010, Gaddafi went so far as to blackmail then-Premier Berlusconi, asking for 5 billion euros in exchange for keeping Europe from becoming ‘black’,” the journal says.
“However, the benefits to the EU came at great human rights costs, to which the EU knowingly looked away. Libya did not sign the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, had no internal mechanism to address asylum seekers and the detention of the migrants was being done in inhumane conditions as per Amnesty International reports,” it says.
In late May, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced that the death toll in the Mediterranean Sea, for the first five months of this year, has reached 2,510 – far exceeding the 1,855 and 67 in the first months of 2015 and 2014 respectively.
According to the same agency, 203,981 migrants made it safely to Europe, out of which a quarter made the journey from North Africa to Italy, the most dangerous route.
Global Risks Insights says that following the EU-Turkey agreement in March, Niger, a major transit country asked for 1 billion euros for combating clandestine migration.
Niger is one of the least developed in the world and has notoriously been targeted by Boko Haram, the Nigerian based extremist group and a faction of Al Qaeda in Maghreb.
Also, Kenya announced the shutdown of the Dadaab Refugee Camp, the largest in the world, home to more than 300,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia and South Sudan, due to the escalating influence of Somali Islamist groups.
The news of the closure came after a January EU decree giving 77 million euros in aid to be divided between Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia and a previous 79 million euros in El Niño-related aid to Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
Eritrea and Sudan are currently facing sanctions and embargos for human rights abuses while Ethiopia and Eritrea are continuing their territorial disputes.
“Last but not least, Mali, a front runner of poverty and corruption, is also incapable taking any viable steps to address migration; any aid and funds received will probably go towards subsidizing the inefficient government and effectively sponsoring the ongoing corruption there,” the journal says.
“Meanwhile, the potential reallocation of any funds these countries might receive poses security risks for the whole world.”
Analysts at GRI say the European Union should have learned by now that throwing money at African and Middle Eastern countries while making the refugees exclusively their problem will not work.
They say there can be no guarantee of transparent and targeted spending with respect to human rights; nor that the funds will not end up to support the very factors that have caused migration: conflict, terrorism, corruption, poverty and inequality.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist