Europe's deals to stem migration empower corrupt officials

Europe's deals to stem migration empower corrupt officials
Populist European efforts to end the flow of people into the continent see billions of euros heading to north African governments, reports Habibullah Lamin.
4 min read
21 December, 2018
People from across Africa travel through Morocco while trying to reach Europe [Getty]
From the Sahel G5 conference in Mauritania to the UN migration deal agreed in Morocco, 2018 wraps up with massive European efforts to engage in long-term cooperation with African states.

As the EU steps up efforts to improve its mechanisms to fight migration, African counterparts express readiness to cooperate - with billions of dollars dedicated to ending the movement of people from north Africa to Europe.

From Libya to Morocco and Tunisia, the flow of humanity seems to be impossible to address, with unrest spreading throughout a culturally diverse region.

The Sahel, which has been the main source of thousands of migrants to Europe, remains left behind, despite seasonal funding contributions such as the recent $2.6 billion commitment for development projects in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Chad.

These five countries have been suffering from internal economic and social turmoil, which in Mali developed into full-blown war. In fact, the formal agreements have widely been seen as pocket money for the governments to help tame popular anger over day-to-day difficulties.

Targeting youth for social and economic inclusion has remained merely conference talk without tangible results on the ground

The most striking example is probably that of the detention centres in Libya.

Targeting youth for social and economic inclusion has remained merely conference talk without tangible results on the ground, with unemployment rates hovering at around 25 percent across north Africa.

Meanwhile, short-term growth is also not very promising.

Chad's annual GDP growth stands at 0.1 percent despite being part of a $262 million humanitarian and development pact with the EU, with $37 million specially earmarked for development projects. 

As these countries remain vulnerable and often under authoritarian regimes, change is far from assured.

Morocco has emerged as the most suitable partner for the EU. A series of visits by EU leaders to Rabat have led to more than $161 million invested by Europe during 2018 to tackle migration - a clear example of the European will to pay any price.

But these efforts have all proven insufficient to deal with the growing number of migrants crossing fences and risking their lives in perilous journeys along the Mediterranean coasts.

According to the UN's monitor specialised in migration observation, more than 100,000 migrants arrived in Europe by sea, while 24,000 arrived by land in 2018 alone.

Overnight wealth is famous among government employees while others languish in extreme poverty

While it is evident there will always be migration to the EU, it is also worth noting that its policies help create the conditions which encourage people to leave their homeland. European companies investing in Africa for its abundance of natural resources usually ally themselves with sitting governments. The corruption that the companies support is alienating locals.

Overnight wealth is famous among government employees while others languish in extreme poverty.  

The power imbalance between foreign investors and local entrepreneurs has led to the failure of local efforts to come up with alternatives for people in African states that are economically dependent on external revenues.

This is often overlooked and dismissed from international conferences and is considered taboo among beneficiary governments. 

The real dialogue to address this has not yet been established. Grassroots organisations are prevented from direct contact with foreign investors unless they agree with the political agenda of the governing parties.

The EU is beginning to realise that the way to stem migration does not lie in direct financial support to governments in hope funding will reach ordinary people.

On December 14, the European Parliament voted in favour of issuing a humanitarian visa for refugees - but the standards are still to be agreed next March.

The essence of this step is that it targets people directly without a mediating channel, and also brings a humanitarian argument to European values. 

Habibulah Mohamed Lamin is a journalist formerly based in the Western Sahara refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. He has worked as a translator and is director of Equipe Media Branch, a group of media activists covering Western Sahara. His work focuses on the politics and culture of the Maghreb.

Follow him on Twitter: @habibullahWS