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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Migration: EU-AU high-level meeting in Tripoli

The European Union and African States agreed on concrete cooperation in migration issues at the first high-level Conference on Migration and Development held on 22-23 November in Tripoli, Libya.

The conference adopted the Joint Africa-EU Declaration on Migration and Development and the Plan of Action on Trafficking in Human Beings (also called Ouagadougou action plan).

The AU-EU declaration contains a long list of good intentions but very little about the way they could be transformed into concrete measures and the way these measures could be financed. As an example, one of the proposals to tackle the root causes of migration is to improve African access to European and regional markets inter alia by working towards agreeing Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by 2008, which are instruments of development, promote poverty reduction, reinforce economic integration processes in Africa and Africa's integration in the global economy; and to redouble efforts to achieve an EU-Mediterranean Free Trade Area by 2010.

The Ouagadougou Action plan on human trafficking is more detailed and list the series of measures that the States should engage in. It also recognises a key role for civil society actors (media, CSOs, NGOs and others) in the area of human trafficking.

In his speech, Commissioner Michel announced the launch of a European programme on migration and development in Africa in 2007 with an initial financing envelope of 40 million euros to be completed with funding from the Member States who are invited to join the Commission in the programme. The first objective of the initiative will be to seriously tackle the problem of unemployment in Africa. A major priority will be to provide investment in the labour-intensive sectors in regions with high outward migration.

Other objectives are to reduce the cost of remittances and to encourage the transfer of competences from emigrants to their community of origin and assistance to African countries in better managing migration. The geographic coverage of the programme will concern the whole sub-Saharan Africa but could target specific countries or regions.

The programme presented by the Commissioner for development seems quite vague compared to the long list of measures proposed by Commissioner Frattini (responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security) that covers a common European policy on labour immigration and initiatives to facilitate labour mobility in Europe, the establishment of a European Job Mobility Portal and support initiatives on labour matching, more decisive action to guarantee that migrants learn the language and society's values of their host country, a new legislation on penalties against employers of illegal migrants, a Communication in the first quarter of 2007 on rights of children in the context of policies of aid and development, a policy in the area of return focused on encouraging voluntary returns as far as possible (aided by programmes to foster the economic and social reintegration of irregular migrants in their countries of origin), support to all the initiatives aiming at establishing a pan-African migration observatory network etc...

The Commission also attaches the highest importance to the effective implementation by its ACP partners of their readmission commitments under Article 13 of the Cotonou Agreement.

Commissioner Frattini also presented the establishment of a Migration Profile for each African country as a way to bring together and analyse all the relevant information needed to develop concrete measures in the field of migration and development and to assess the impact of policies taken. Note that the migration profiles are part of the current drafting of Country Strategy papers for the programming of the 10th EDF.

"Using these Profiles as a basis, we should establish cooperation platforms on migration and development to bring together African countries, EU Member States and international organisations to manage migration more effectively in the interests of all, along specific migratory routes. It should be our aim also to have the first meetings of these cooperation platforms in 2007…. Migration Profiles can be used to provide technical and financial assistance to African countries to solve the root causes of migration flows. One idea could be to establish Migration Support Teams (MISTs) composed of experts from EU Member States which could provide the necessary assistance to requesting African states".

And finally Commissioner Frattini proposed a deal to the African States:

"Once conditions have been met, such as cooperation on illegal migration and effective mechanisms for the readmission of illegal migrants, Mobility Packages could be agreed upon between the EU and interested African states, which would make for easier movement of people and give them better access to the EU labour market. Quotas will continue to be set at national level in Member States of the European Union. But I hope it will be possible for the EU Commission to know exactly the working needs on a State by State basis, to use them as an instrument to get political packages and agreements with African countries by offering to them concrete job opportunities, training projects, people circulation strategies".

All measures announced by the two Commissioners in Tripoli are confirmed in a Communication adopted by the Commission on 30 November that will be discussed by the European Council on 14 and 15 December. At that occasion, Commissioner Frattini would also want the EU Members States to take decision on strengthening the role of the border control Agency Frontex by increasing the number of patrols in the Mediterranean and Atlantic and equipping the agency with permanent equipment such boats and helicopters.

In the press release announcing that communication, the EC reports on recent meetings and measures in the field of migration among which "the first ever use of the Rapid Reaction Mechanism to fund projects in Senegal and Mauritania to tackle illegal migration by sea". The Rapid Reaction Mechanism (RRM) is supposed to fund emergency projects in areas of conflict and crisis prevention and management. The budget of the RRM is relatively limited (approximately 25 million euros per year) but will increase under the new Instrument for Stability that will integrate and replace the RRM in future.

Source: EU News - Issue 10, December 2006 (APRODEV, CIDSE, Caritas Europa).

See Euforic dossier on migration.

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