EU moves to tighten borders, boost Africa ties on migrants

2018-10-18 16:02
European Union (iStock)

European Union (iStock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

European Union leaders were set on Thursday to push ahead with plans to boost cooperation with North African countries and beef up the bloc's borders in an effort to stop migrants entering Europe.

A draft statement prepared for their summit emphasizes the need to step up cooperation with countries that people leave and transit through to seek shelter or better lives in Europe.

They said that work with those countries on "investigating, apprehending and prosecuting smugglers and traffickers should be intensified." They also called for a joint smuggling task force to be set up.

Well over 1 million migrants entered Europe in 2015, most of them Syrians and Iraqis fleeing conflict, but numbers have dropped significantly since the EU began outsourcing the challenge to Turkey.

Turkey has been offered at least $3.4bn, ostensibly in Syrian refugee aid, to stop people leaving there for Europe, and the bloc wants to reproduce that model elsewhere.

The EU has had to look outside to solve the problem because reforms to its asylum system are blocked by the refusal of some countries to accept refugee quotas.

European countries in the Mediterranean like Greece, Italy and more recently Spain feel abandoned to manage the influx alone, and tensions over how best to handle migrant numbers - which pale in comparison to refugee arrivals in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan - have increasingly fueled support for far-right parties in Europe.

"We can't just say that a country with a border on the sea is suddenly the only one responsible" for migrants, said Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. "The problem is European and the solution should be a European one as well."

Amid the standoff over quotas, momentum is gathering for countries to pay more money - for example to countries like Greece and Italy, or fund development aid - instead of hosting refugees.

"We're recommending that instead of mandatory quotas that we go the way of solidarity. This means that each country will provide a contribution where it is possible and where it makes sense," said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency until the end of the year.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said such a shift might work.

"It's possible, no refugees but more money," he told reporters, adding that it must be substantial funds, "not nothing, not peanuts."

"It's better an agreement with a compromise than no agreement," he added.

However, migration experts and nonprofits doubt whether any scheme would work without actually sharing out refugees.

As the EU looks abroad for a solution, Egypt has appeared a prime candidate for a new partnership. Kurz and European Council President Donald Tusk have held talks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, a top army general who took office in 2014. Both men praised him for stopping people from leaving its coast on their way to Europe.

The aim would be to get the Egyptian coast guard to patrol the waters off Libya - the main point for migrants leaving for Italy - and take any rescued people back to Africa.

In response to criticism that it's neglecting migrants and their rights, the bloc has said that it works closely with the UN's refugee agency and the International Organisation for Migration.

But both agencies underline that, even though numbers have dropped, more people are dying at sea than ever - more than 1 700 people so far this year - and that the migrant debate has become "dangerously toxic" in some parts of Europe.

"The current tenor of the political debate - painting a picture of Europe under siege - is not only unhelpful but completely out of touch with reality," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a joint statement. "We cannot forget that we are talking about human lives. Debate is welcome - scapegoating refugees and migrants for political gain is not."

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook


Read more on:    un  |  eu  |  libya  |  egypt  |  north africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

HSE Manager

Cape Town
Tumaini Consulting
R550 000.00 - R650 000.00 Per Year

IT Manager (contract)

Cape Town CBD
Communicate Cape Town IT
R330 000.00 - R458 000.00 Per Year

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.