This article is part of: EU2016-ezine 04

Agreements on migration with Mali, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire

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.

Refugees from Mali, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and other countries in Messina, Italy. They were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian coastguard. (Photo: UNHCR/Patrick Russo)

Mali, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are now working with EU delegations and members states on fleshing out these ideas:

  1.  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.
  2. The EU and its member states will work with the West African countries to improve border controls and combat people smuggling.
  3. Grants will be made available for students and academics to study and do research in Europe.
  4. African migrants in Europe will be encouraged to invest in their country of origin.
  5. The return of illegal migrants will be speeded up with the help of improved documents and registration procedures.


Shared responsibility

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.

Mr Koenders: ‘All the meetings were productive. We are all concerned about the many young people dying while attempting to cross the desert or sea. We agreed that countries of origin must take back their own nationals who have been living illegally in another country.’

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.

East Africa

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.

Mr Koenders with the prime minister of Mali Modibo Keita,

the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana Hanna Tetteh,

and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire Albert Mabri. The aim of the agreements made is to combat irregular migration, by ...

encouraging African migrants in Europe to invest in their country of origin. In Accra Mr Koenders spoke to Ghanaians who returned after spending time in the Netherlands and now own successful small businesses.

Kasim Sahar is one of them. Together with his wife he runs a dry cleaning and carpet cleaning service in Accra.

Another way of combating irregular migration is to speed up the return of illegal immigrants by improving travel documents and registration procedures. Mr Koenders visited the immigration service at the airport in Accra.