Trust Fund for Africa to maintain Europe’s solidary image


After years of migration from the South to the North, tragedies such as the drowning of more than 700 immigrants that were trying to reach the seashore of Italy, after the picture of a dead Syrian kid lying in the sand, Europe starts to give responses. The Heads of State and Government of the European Union and African countries congregated in the Valletta summit in Malta the 11th and 12th November to discuss African migration problems. The outcome has been the creation of the “Trust Fund Aid for Africa” that will provide 1.8 billion Euros set aside for this issue.

European Union leaders and their African counterparts attend the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta

European Union leaders and their African counterparts attend the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta, Malta, November 12, 2015 (REUTERS)

According to the European Commission, this sum is destined to “help foster stability in the regions and to contribute to better migration management”. Their aim is to tackle the root causes that motivate so many people to leave their home countries trying to achieve a better life with real opportunities. As a consequence, migrants will be controlled in the African countries and not when they arrive to Europe. Principally these measures and this amount will be directed towards three regions: the North of Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region and Lake Chad area.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared that “for the Africa Trust Fund and our response to be credible, I want to see more member states contributing and matching the 1.8 billion Euros the EU has put forward”. “It’s a new impetus we want to give”, a European diplomat told AFP. “But African countries are reluctant to take back nationals to avoid losing billions of euros in remittances, which exceed the value of development aid”, another diplomat opined.

Consequently, the first criticisms are beginning to appear. The African leaders consider that this is not enough for such a vast territory with so many problems. Mahamadou Issoufou, the president of Niger in the Sahel, where migration and droughts are just some of the principal difficulties they face constantly, claimed that “the trust fund is not enough, 1.8 billion Euros is far from enough”. He added that what they need “is not just official development assistance in this form but a reform of global governance. World trade must be fair. There must be more investment in Africa. Official development assistance is good, but it’s not sufficient”. Furthermore, the EU at the moment will bring just 78 of the 1,800 million euros promised, not even half of the total quantity, so it seems to be just another measure to avoid the real causes of the problem as many other actions approved by the EU that, although improving the situation, have not been a real solution.

Another widely discussed point is the facility of taking back migrants to their African home countries, which raises a question: why are migrants from places like Syria considered “refugees” and accepted and Sub-Saharan Africa migrants considered “economic migrants” and “failed asylum seekers” returned to their countries? According to Europe, their lives are not in risk as they just search for better economic conditions. Senior African officials like Khadim Diop, Senegal’s minister for African integration, have expressed their concern saying that they “cannot tolerate double standards” that result in the turning away of Africans and the admission of migrants from, for example, Syria.

Organizations such as the International Organization for Migration show that the amount of people displaced from their countries is huge; 140,000 migrants arrived in Italy from Eritrea in 2015, 18,000 from Nigeria and 8,000 from Sudan and these are just three examples of African countries; the total number is disproportionate. Basically, what Europeis doing is paying to avoid the arrival of African people to their shores with what seems a tactic to get rid of a long-term problem without many complications. Because they are not Syrian refugees, they are just a bunch of people from Africa.

To sum up, EU wants to build a bridge with Africa, but the action plan and the Trust Fund make the bridge even more difficult to cross. The national interest of European countries seems to come first again as they won’t let this massive wave of “economic migrants” disembark in their beaches. While it seems that Europe has showed its humanitarian side in the Syrian refugee crisis, it is still a coordinated fence against other nationality migrants. However, we must think in our priorities; in our increasingly globalized world, do we want a barrier or a path that leads to cooperation?

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