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Africa

Malta summit bids to stem EU migrant flow by keeping asylum seekers in Africa

media The conference centre in Valleta where the EU-Africa migrant summit is being held RFI/Anne-Marie Bissada

European and African representatives meet on the Mediterranean island of Malta this week to try to stem the flow of migrants northwards, as thousands head north to flee war and poverty. Increased cross-border cooperation and a trust fund of aid to 23 African countries are among proposals up for discussion.

Over 50 delegations from Africa and the European Union have arrived in the Maltese capital, Valletta, to discuss how best to deal with the growing number of migrants.

In less than 24 hours the participants will decide on proposals that will put in place cooperative policies and accords to stem the tide of migrants making their way north - in other words keep people from making the perilous journey to Europe.

Already in place since 2006 is the Rabat process, a mix of 55 European and African governments, including the European Commission and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). This regional process has worked over the years to support the free movement of people and migration within north, west and central Africa.

In place as of last year is the Khartoum process. Its main aim is to develop a long-standing dialogue on migration and mobility. So far, the key members include Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan, along with five EU member states - France, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom and Malta - along with the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the African Union Commission.

But the Khartoum process will be getting more attention during this summit as the main source of migrants coming to Europe is the Horn of Africa via Libya.

One issue under review is the idea of cross-border cooperation. The EU has proposed working with authoritarian regimes which are often the greater source of migrants. The idea would be to work with the border authorities in Eritrea, Sudan and Libya.

With an International Criminal Court arrest warrant hanging over him, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will not attend such summits, so discussions with him can not go any further. In the case of Libya, the EU has proposed working with the Libyan Marine. However, they are currently under the control of the unrecognised government in Tripoli, so again discussions are at a dead end.

And in the case of Eritrea, one of the most repressive governments, the EU faces criticism for even trying to cooperate with such a regime.

In the light of the Eritrean government’s refusal to work with any aid workers over the years or with United Nation monitors, the EU should develop a policy to impose sanctions on the country until it agrees to open its doors, Elsa Chyrum, an Eritrean activist and director of the NGO Human Rights Concern Eritrea, commented.

At present Eritreans make up one of the largest groups of migrants, many coming via Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya.

Another major proposal to come out of the meeting has been for a 1.8-billion-euro emergency trust fund, dedicated to the aid of 23 African countries.

The idea behind the fund is to provide support to countries who will help stem the tide of migrants leaving African soil in five areas: to help youth in education, training and finding jobs; to promote good governance; to help countries who take in migrants; to finance projects that dismantle human trafficking networks and to help repatriate asylum seekers.
 

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