Can 'carrot-and-stick' aid deals stem migration from Africa to Europe?

Reuters News
|
Posted: Dec 16, 2016 7:21 AM

By Kieran Guilbert

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The European Union this week struck a deal with Mali to provide development funds to help it create jobs and strengthen its borders in return for the West African nation's aid in fighting people smugglers and accepting deportees from Europe.

The Mali agreement comes as the EU ramps up migration collaboration with countries of origin and transit in Africa and the Middle East to prevent a repeat of last year's uncontrolled influx of some 1.4 million refugees and migrants to its shores.

The EU is working on similar deals with Ethiopia, Senegal, Nigeria and Niger to be able to swiftly deport migrants who make it to Europe but have no case for asylum.

EU leaders on Thursday agreed they would seek to engage more African countries in such collaboration, but migration officials have warned that taking a carrot-and-stick approach to migration could set a dangerous precedent.

Under the most prominent such deal, Turkey was promised accelerated EU membership talks and aid in return for stemming a flow of migrants into Europe - mainly Syrians heading to Greece.

But the March agreement, which sees one refugee in Turkey admitted to Europe for every Syrian the country takes back from Greece, has been widely criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups.

Here are the views of some migration experts on the EU's money-for-migration deal with Mali:

DEMETRIOS PAPADEMETRIOU, PRESIDENT OF MIGRATION POLICY INSTITUTE EUROPE

"The Mali deal will test three things.

First, Europe's commitment to doing the things that responsible sovereign entities must do if they wish to defend their interests, and not continue to confuse themselves with feel-good but disingenuous rhetoric about values.

The way forward for Europe on this issue is to choose the immigrants it needs and wants; reestablish its Mediterranean borders, be serious about removing unauthorized immigrants and failed asylum seekers; be less permissive about who qualifies for asylum, and mind citizen security at all times.

Second, Europe's willingness to invest massive resources and use all policy tools at its disposal to manage immigration of all types.

And third, Europe's ability to put continuing disputes about how to respond to these matters aside and come to a common sense agreement that respects the fact that member states will not simply fall into line on every aspect of this issue.

If this deal proves to be 'old wine in new bottles,' it will fail; if it succeeds it will do so because both sides understand this is the end of the 'business as usual' way of doing things.

PAUL MELLY, ASSOCIATE FELLOW OF THE AFRICA PROGRAMME AT CHATHAM HOUSE

"Mali was an obvious partner for an early deal of this kind because it already has a close relationship with Europe on development and security matters, and it has for many years been one of the major sources of African migration to Europe.

Taken on its own, the deal will not be enough to radically transform the huge and complex pressures that drive informal migration.

The fundamental truth is that there is a huge disparity between the living standards and work opportunities available in Europe and those in Mali and other Sahelian countries.

That gap – a fundamental driver for migration – will persist for years and probably decades.

Over the past three years the Sahel has become a major priority region for European foreign policy. There is now a widespread recognition in Brussels and many other EU capitals that the wellbeing and stability of Sahelian countries has to be a priority because it is in Europe's own self-interest.

The deal has caused some upset in (Mali's capital) Bamako, where some voices in civil society see it as a betrayal and are shocked to see their government cooperate with Europe in facilitating the deportation of informal migrants back to Mali.

KAREN HARGRAVE, RESEARCH OFFICER WITH THE HUMANITARIAN POLICY GROUP AT THE OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE (ODI)

"Europe is using development funding and the promise of job creation as an incentive for Mali to implement border controls on Europe's behalf.

Following the EU-Turkey deal, and with the EU hoping to replicate this model in countries from Nigeria to Afghanistan, such deals are turning vulnerable people into bargaining chips.

By prioritizing the reduction of asylum applications, Europe is sending a clear signal that these concerns matter more than the rights of people involved.

As our research has shown, in promoting these deals, Europe is setting a precedent for the rest of the world - that domestic concerns legitimately justify extraordinary efforts to curb numbers of refugees and migrants.

What's more, rather than encouraging people to stay in Mali in the short term, research suggests that these economic incentives may have the opposite effect of increasing migration, with people better able to afford the cost of migration as household incomes increase."

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Astrid Zweynert; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)