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EU cooperation with Africa on migration

22 April 2015
by eub2 -- last modified 22 April 2015

The College of European Commission welcomed to Brussels on 22 April the College of the African Union Commission for their annual meeting. The meeting was to give fresh impetus in the relationship between the two strategic partners. Migration was a key topic in the light of the recent migrant disasters in the Mediterranean.


How does the EU cooperate with Africa on migration?

On the basis of its Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) – the overarching framework of the EU external migration and asylum policy – the EU is running a broad dialogue with countries on the African continent on migration and mobility at bilateral, regional and continental levels:

  • Continental level, with the African Union. A key political declaration on migration and mobility was endorsed by the Heads of State and Government at the EU-Africa Summit in April 2014. It reiterated the parties shared commitment to, amongst others, fight irregular migration and to address all its relevant aspects, including prevention, strengthened migration and border management, smuggling of migrants, return and readmission, as well as addressing the root causes of irregular migration and enhance cooperation to address trafficking of human beings, and offering international protection. The above mentioned declaration is underpinned by an Action Plan (2014-17), and the necessary financial resources.
  • Regional level, with policy dialogues with countries along the western migratory route (Rabat Process) and the eastern migratory route (Khartoum Process). The regional dialogues are underpinned by concrete action plans and financial resources.
  • Bilateral level, with specific political agreements concluded with Morocco, Tunisia, Cape Verde and Nigeria. These political agreements are matched by concrete actions, including a wide range of programme and project support, that aim to contribute to institutional and legislative reforms and capacity building in partner countries.

What is the EU-Africa Migration and Mobility Dialogue?

The Africa-EU Migration, Mobility and Employment (MME) Partnership was launched during the second Africa-EU Summit of Heads of State and Government in December 2007 in Lisbon, where the Joint EU-Africa Strategy and the First Action Plan (2008-2010) were adopted.

The EU-Africa Summit in 2014 gave new impetus to the cooperation on migration: In addition to the declaration on migration and mobility, an action plan 2014-2017 was also adopted, focusing on the following priorities:

  • Trafficking in human beings
  • Remittances
  • Diaspora
  • Mobility and labour migration (including intra-African mobility)
  • International protection (including internally displaced persons)
  • Irregular migration

What is the Rabat Process?

The Rabat Process was first launched at the first Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development in July 2006 in Rabat. It brings together governments of 55 European and African countries from North, West and Central Africa, together with the European Commission and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The objective is to enhance dialogue and cooperation on migration more broadly (legal migration and mobility; prevention of irregular migration and measures to counteract it; migration and development; international protection), as well as to identify common priorities in order to develop operational and practical cooperation.

The Rabat Process has established a solid and fruitful dialogue between the EU and countries in North, West and Central Africa, and has fostered enhanced cooperation through the implementation of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and multilateral initiatives. The Seahorse Atlantic Network is an example of a concrete cooperation at regional level between Spain, Portugal, Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Morocco, Gambia and Guinea Bissau. It enables the information exchange between authorities along the Western African coast in order to prevent irregular migration and cross-border crime.

The fourth Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development took place in November in Rome. The Rome Declaration and Programme for 2015-17, adopted during this conference, identified two main priorities for future action: 1) strengthening the link between migration and development, and 2) the prevention and fight against irregular migration and related crimes, namely trafficking in human beings and smuggling of persons. It also introduced international protection as one of the four pillars for cooperation aligning them with the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility. Last week, the Steering Committee discussed the operationalisation of the Rome Declaration and the Programme.

How is the EU providing financial support to the Rabat Process?

Specific support to the Rabat Process is included in the Annual Action Programme 2014 under the Pan-African Programme of the Development Cooperation Instrument, through which the EU is funding an action supporting the migration and mobility dialogue with the African Union. In addition, the EU is funding through the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), the European Development Fund (EDF) and the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) an important number of migration-related actions at bilateral and regional levels that support the implementation of various commitments taken under the Rabat Process. For instance, under the 10th European Development Fund, the EU is funding a €26 million project to support the free movement of persons and migration in West Africa. The project is implemented in joint management with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The overall objective is to support the effective implementation of the ECOWAS Free Movement of Persons Protocols and ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration. The EU also envisages continued funding in the area of migration under the 11th European Development Fund which should be signed in the first half of 2015. As part of the Sahel Regional Action Plan, the EU will reinforce the development-migration nexus and mainstream migration into the EU and Member States' collective actions based on the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility and the Rabat process.

What is the Khartoum Process?

The Khartoum Process was launched at a Ministerial Conference in November 2014 in Rome. The objective is to establish a long-standing dialogue on migration and mobility aimed at enhancing the current cooperation, including through the identification and implementation of concrete projects. In the first phase, activities should concentrate on addressing trafficking in human beings as well as smuggling of migrants.

The Khartoum Process is led by a Steering Committee comprised of five EU Member States (Italy, France, Germany, UK, Malta), five partner countries (Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan) as well as the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the AU Commission on the African side.

How is the EU providing financial support to the Khartoum Process?

The Khartoum Process will be directly supported under the "Support to Africa-EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue" programme (€ 17.5 million under the Pan-African Programme).

Additional initiatives are planned to implement actions in line with the Ministerial declaration of November 2014, including a project on Addressing Mixed Migration Flows in East Africa (€5 million under the Development Cooperation Instrument- Global Public Goods and Challenges thematic programme (DCI-GPGC), to be implemented by Expertise France) and a project on support to EU law enforcement cooperation along the Horn of Africa Migration Route (€0.75 million under the Internal Security Fund for police cooperation). Under the forthcoming Regional Indicative Programme for East Africa, South Africa and Indian Ocean region of the 11th European Development Fund, a cross-regional envelope of €25 million has been earmarked for migration in this region, with a particular focus on the Khartoum process, including the need to address international protection needs.

What is the Sahel Regional Action Plan?

On 20 April 2015, the Council adopted the Sahel Regional Action Plan 2015-2020 which provides the overall framework for the implementation of the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, as adopted and revised in its Conclusions on 21 March 2011 and 17 March 2014, respectively.

The Action Plan provides a solid basis for reinforcing the EU's focus around four domains that are highly relevant to the stabilisation of the region, namely prevention and countering radicalisation; creation of appropriate conditions for youth; migration, mobility and border management; the fight against illicit trafficking; and transnational organised crime.

Migration and Mobility

People move to escape poverty and conflict, to seek protection from persecution or serious harm, or to build a better life. For individuals, migration can be one of the most powerful and immediate strategies for poverty reduction. In the absence of employment opportunities, many youth seek for better opportunities by migrating. The Sahel Regional Action Plan will focus on this link between migration and development. In addition, the EU will focus on preventing and fighting against irregular migration, smuggling and trafficking in human beings; promoting international protection and organising mobility and legal migration.

The situation in Niger, as a major transit country, will require strengthened efforts, notably to reinforce and accompany the actions already launched by the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission EUCAP Sahel Niger.


Economic growth is necessary to create employment and to significantly reduce widespread poverty and income inequalities that continue to prevail across the Sahel. More effort is needed to create job opportunities throughout all sectors, in particular for youth.

The EU will provide assistance relevant for youth, including education and training as well as job creation, and ensure equal opportunities for boys and girls. An example of such as assistance is the empowerment of mainstream youth through identification of indicators to monitor and to promote education and youth employment so as to offer alternatives to illegal activities/extremist actions.

Further analysis on how to support youth as agents for positive change will also be provided. The EU will build youth resilience, e.g. by further promoting economic and employment opportunities (through support to SMEs and key value chains, the recruitment of local labour, etc.) and the reduction of inequalities in EU and Member States programmes, wherever possible,.

A special reflexion could also be launched on demography challenge in order to know how to better address it. Demography should become progressively and more systematically part of the political dialogue with beneficiary countries. More broadly, EU and Member States' instruments will be mobilised to improve social cohesion and inclusive economic growth, including regional integration, in particular through the implementation of Economic Partnership Agreement Development Programme (EPADP).

Border management, illicit trafficking, and transnational organised crime

The EU currently supports a number of activities to fight illicit trafficking (partnership with UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and ECOWAS) in border zones, but also in the area of security and development.

Actions on border management, trafficking in human beings and other forms of trafficking, and transnational organised crime, in particular focusing on enhanced inter-agency and cross-border cooperation and information sharing will be pursued.

The EU will consider the implementation of integrated border management projects, in the Sahel region as well as around Lake Chad, including actions in the fields of both development and security. The EU is also encouraging Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) civilian missions already deployed in the Sahel region, such as the missions EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger within their operational design and strength, to support local efforts aimed at developing local border management capacities and to contribute actively to the international coordination on the ground.

What about the Euromed cooperation?

A further strengthening of the multilateral dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy could also add value to cooperation on migration. Migration management requires solid regional frameworks. Their strengthening in the Southern Neighbourhood would provide the basis for a more systematic engagement with the existing regional forums and regional migration dialogues and programmes. In particular, Euromed Migration constitutes the flagship regional cooperation platform of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership with the objective to support EU Member States and Mediterranean partner countries in enhancing a comprehensive, constructive and operational dialogue and cooperation framework, with specific focus on reinforcing instruments and capacities to develop and implement evidence-based and coherent migration and international protection policies.

What about bilateral cooperation?

Bilateral dialogues on migration and mobility between the EU and third countries can take different shapes. The Mobility Partnerships as well as the Common Agendas on Migration and Mobility provide important frameworks for policy dialogue and operational cooperation on asylum and migration issues. So far, four such agreements have been signed with partner countries on the Africa continent: Cape Verde, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria. Financial resources have been allocated to support the implementation of these agreements.

The EU remains ready to start dialogues with other countries in the region in accordance with the political mandate given by the European Council. For example, the EU offer to launch a dialogue with Egypt has been reiterated at several occasions since 2011, but has not yet received a positive reply. Libya remains a priority country for such a dialogue as soon as circumstances allow.

Which types of activities are covered under a Mobility Partnership?

Typical actions/activities covered in a Mobility Partnership are:

Legal migration and mobility

  • promotion of a better framework for legal migration and mobility, including through circular and temporary migration schemes as well as better information and protection of migrants, including pre-departure training;
  • informing potential migrants on opportunities for legal migration and on requirements for legal stay, as well as on the dangers of undocumented migration and illegal work;
  • institutional and administrative capacity-building of partner countries’ authorities in legal migration management, through improvement of the regulatory framework, technical assistance, training, exchange of experts and best practices, etc.;

Fight against irregular migration and trafficking in human beings; border management

  • improving the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings, notably through capacity-building, joint operational measures (including risk analysis and the exchange of information and best practices) and establishing operational interoperability between the relevant border agencies of EU, Member States and the partner countries;
  • development of effective mechanisms and concrete initiatives for preventing and combating irregular migration and trafficking in human beings, including through actions raising public awareness;
  • improving border surveillance, border management capacities and cross-border cooperation;

Migration and development

  • support for voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of returning migrants, including through circular migration schemes, informing migrants abroad of the labour market situation in their home countries and their return possibilities, training of returning migrant workers and promotion of transfer of social security benefits, and stimulating entrepreneurship;
  • promotion of legal and concrete measures reducing the cost of remittances, and encouraging their productive investment;
  • promoting the role of (and cooperation with) diasporas.

Asylum and international protection

  • support to the development of a legal and institutional framework on asylum in line with international standards;
  • capacity-building of partner countries’ authorities to develop and implement an asylum policy and provide international protection as well as to improve the reception facilities, such as the reception of asylum seekers and submission of asylum requests through the development of specific simplified procedures, in particular for those with special needs;
  • promoting the cooperation between the national authorities competent for asylum procedures in third countries and their peers in the EU Member States.

What about cooperation with Libya?

Despite the difficult security and political situation, the EU remains a committed partner in enhancing Libya’s capacity to manage migration flows. The past years have witnessed a significant investment from the EU in migration projects in Libya (€42.7 million committed between 2011 and 2014). Each EU funded programme encompasses different areas of interventions. However, EU commitment to support Libya efforts in migration management is concentrated mainly in three sub-sectors: human rights based migration management; countering irregular migration; and assistance to people in need of international protection migrants. After the deterioration of the security situation, most of the partners working on migration programmes in Libya moved to Tunisia (DRC, IOM, UNHCR, IFRC, ICRC) and put in place coordination mechanisms to ensure immediate response to the Libya crisis. In order to respond to the likely influx of people fleeing fighting areas in Libya, EU migration support has been refocused to guarantee emergency care and support for migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people not only in Libya but as well in neighbouring countries.

How the EU assists refugees in the regions closest to the conflicts – the case of Syria

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, the EU has mobilised around €3 billion in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance for Syria and its neighbouring countries. Approximately €872 million has been mobilised by the Commission to help to respond to needs within Syria and its neighbouring countries hosting large numbers of refugees (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq).  

For example, European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI)/European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) funds are being used to address medium term needs of the Syrian population such as access to basic services and infrastructures (education, vocational training, health, water, waste management, etc.), support to livelihoods and economic recovery, protection of cultural heritage, support to civil society in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan (€550 million). Support is provided to Turkey and Iraq through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) (€73,5 million) and Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) (€6,6 million) respectively, and a Regional Programme has been developed to address the refugee crisis (documenting impact on host countries, testing pilot economic support activities) with the Danish MFA under the DCI Migration thematic line (± €12 million).

Background information

EU external migration policy

The Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) is, since 2005, the overarching framework of the EU external migration and asylum policy. The framework defines how the EU conducts its policy dialogues and operational cooperation with third countries, based on clearly defined priorities which reflect the strategic objectives of the EU, and embedded in the EU’s overall foreign policy framework, including development cooperation. Important also to underline that the GAMM aims to develop mutually beneficial partnerships in line with both the interests of the EU and of partner countries (which is needed to ensure effective management of migration flows).

The GAMM is focused on four thematic priorities: (1) better organising legal migration and fostering well-managed mobility; (2) preventing and combating irregular migration and eradicating trafficking of human beings; (3) maximising the development impact of migration and mobility; (4) promoting international protection and enhancing the external dimension of asylum. The protection of human rights is a cross-cutting priority.

The GAMM is implemented through several political instruments (regional and bilateral policy dialogues and action plans), legal instruments (visa facilitation and readmission agreements), operational support and capacity-building (including via EU agencies, e.g. FRONTEX, EASO and ETF, and technical assistance facilities such as MIEUX and TAIEX) as well as the wide range of programme and project support that is made available to third country administrations and other stakeholders, such as civil society, migrant associations and international organisations.

The GAMM implementation is a common and shared responsibility of the Commission, EEAS (including EU Delegations) and Member States, in accordance with their respective competences as set out in the Treaties.

General background on migration and development

Almost all developing countries are significantly affected by population movements. Of the estimated 232 million international migrants, approximately three quarters are citizens of non-OECD countries, and about a third resides in low- or middle-income countries. Migration and mobility have the potential to act as powerful enablers for economic, social and environmental development in low- and middle-income countries of origin and destination.

Migration and mobility are important livelihood strategies for many people in developing countries, and migrants almost always multiply their incomes when moving. However, weak governance frameworks make migrants particularly vulnerable to violations of their fundamental freedoms, human and other rights. Migrants disproportionately bear the human, social and economic costs of migration.

Furthermore, over 10 million refugees find themselves in protracted situations in developing countries - i.e. displaced for over 5 years without achieving a durable solution. Most internally displaced persons (IDPs) also live in protracted displacement.

The European Neighbourhood Policy under revision

In March 2015, an extensive consultation process on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was launched in order for the European External Action Service and the European Commission to prepare a proposal later this year for the future direction of the ENP. As set out in the Joint Consultation Paper on the ENP Review, migration and mobility is a key area of co-operation for the EU and its partners.

The Review will set out proposals on how to further enhance mobility, especially for education, scientific, cultural, training and professional purpose and tackle common challenges, such as people smuggling and irregular migration. Migration stands among the most important topics of the ENP review with a view to finding the common ground where European interests and those of partner countries can both be served.

EU support to African countries in the field of migration

The European Union is a leading donor when it comes to migration and development – more than €1 billion has been spent on more than 400 projects on migration between 2004 and 2014, and more than half of those projects are in support of our African partner countries. For 2014-2020, migration features more prominently in the programming than ever before.  In particular, €344 million are dedicated to migration under the Global Public Goods & Challenges programme of the Development Cooperation Instrument. Migration issues also feature strongly as a priority in regional geographic programmes (Pan-African Partnership instrument, regional envelope for Southern Neighbourhood, West Africa and Central Africa cross-regional envelope for Eastern & Southern Africa), as well as in some national programmes in Morocco, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Niger.

The Commission is currently launching efforts to better "mainstream migration" into its external cooperation on other thematic issues, which will mobilise further resources in the future.

Development cooperation can make a substantial contribution to addressing a host of relevant challenges such as helping partner countries in their efforts to develop migration-sensitive policies, addressing the root causes of irregular and forced migration and strengthening migrants’ and refugees’ rights. The potential of development cooperation to address the root causes of irregular and forced migration is the best investment we can make to address these phenomena.


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