Wednesday, January 30, 2008

African positions on the Externalization of EU Asylum policy

Attempting to control irregular migration, European states are currently developing new approaches to asylum policy based on the notion to externalize the refugee problem. This has led to the establishment of several bi- and multilateral initiatives that seek to strengthen refugee protection, especially in Maghreb and Sub-Saharan countries. The logic behind this wide spectrum of different initiatives is to foster cooperation with African states and thereby reduce the number of asylum seekers in the EU.

According to a recent paper of the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), EU member states thus primarily fund asylum, while the responsibility for physical protection is delegated to the South.

The paper argues that the new policy is based on the wrong assumptions that the Southern countries will cooperate and more importantly are able to substitute an internal European asylum policy with an external African approach. In contrast to European ideas, the authorities argue that there is already an asylum crisis in Africa:

“African states host more refugees, under more complex and insecure conditions, with less international assistance, and with fewer possibilities to find lasting solutions.”

To deal with these problems, African countries either reduce the number of asylum seekers by rejecting them at the border or even carry-out mass expulsions, or they reduce the quality of protection and assistance. The paper elaborates on the case of Tanzania which is currently hosting the largest refugee population in Africa. It concludes:

“If the European approach to African states, and indeed towards refugee-hosting states in the South, were better adapted to account for the position, perspective and concerns of those states, then genuine ‘win-win’ outcomes might be possible.”

The current approach only addresses European interests by ignoring African positions.

See also the paper of the German Institute for International and Security Studies (SWP) on irregular migration and the EU Commission's Green Book on Asylum Policy.

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by Martin Behrens