Photo Corbis / Hollandse Hoogte
In April 2016 foreign minister Bert Koenders made agreements on behalf of the European Union with Mali, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire on tackling irregular migration from West Africa. Joint declarations were concluded about achieving concrete results before the end of this year.
Mali, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are now working with EU delegations and members states on fleshing out these ideas:
- Before the end of the Netherlands Presidency, all three countries will send missions to Europe to identify failed migrants for return to their countries of origin.
- The EU and its member states will work with the West African countries to improve border controls and combat people smuggling.
- Grants will be made available for students and academics to study and do research in Europe.
- African migrants in Europe will be encouraged to invest in their country of origin.
- The return of illegal migrants will be speeded up with the help of improved documents and registration procedures.
The African countries and the European Union have a shared responsibility to tackle migration issues. This was confirmed last year during the summit between the EU and its African partners in the Maltese capital Valletta. The EU is working to develop partnership agreements with the countries in question.
Two billion euros
To stimulate economic development and employment projects, the EU has established a €2 billion trust fund. Fifty-nine projects, worth €927 million in total, have already been approved. The projects focus on areas like education and training, access to digital technology, reception in the region, youth participation in public life, promoting enterprise, supporting small businesses by providing access to loans, professional training and agricultural investment.
The Netherlands maintains relations on behalf of the EU with countries in East Africa, where many refugees have spent over 25 years in camps with no access to employment and therefore no income. Young men in situations like this are susceptible to the temptations of a life in crime or to radicalisation. Others are pressured into traveling to Europe to find work with the help of people smugglers.
In Kenya and Ethiopia the Netherlands wants to set up projects in line with a new model which improves the situation of not only refugees but also the local population. The availability of energy, water, education, healthcare and employment for both groups needs to be increased. This is also aimed at avoiding tensions between refugees and host communities.
The projects are set up in close cooperation with the authorities in the country concerned. The Association of Netherlands Municipalities has also made experts available to tackle these local problems. The business community, too, can play an important role by increasing the number of jobs for both the local population and refugees.