EU ‘running out of money’ to stop migrants travelling from Africa
London, Oct. 20, 2017 (AltAfrika)– The European Union (EU ) is running out of money to pay African countries to take action to stop would-be migrants travelling to Europe, diplomats have warned.
European Union leaders set up a fund in 2015 to pay for border security and other measures aimed at preventing African citizens leaving their countries of origin.
At an EU summit in Brussels this week, the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned leaders of a looming €225m gap to pay for migration projects, including border-control in Libya, the departure point for most migrants who risk the perilous crossing over the central Mediterranean to Italy.
“We are reaching our limits when it comes to this emergency trust fund for Africa,” Juncker told reporters after the summit. “We have to increase the financial means which we have to have at our disposal.”
Germany and Sweden were among the countries that pledged to top up the fund during the summit discussion. Officials had warned that without an emergency injection of cash, EU-funded border control projects in Libya would be in doubt.
The plea from the European commission points points to a bigger question about how to pay for the next tranche of EU migration funds for Africa. EU leaders created the EU-Africa trust fund in 2015 at the height of the migration crisis: by 2018 about €3.1bn is expected to have been released, with €1.9bn already disbursed.
One EU diplomat said the EU-Africa trust fund was running out of money: “If the situation is not fixed rather quickly we might see ourselves in a situation where we are not able to finance these policies.”
Spread between 26 countries, the EU-Africa trust fund pays for voluntary return of migrants stranded in north Africa, border security, skills and education projects.
Since the start of the year, 109,915 people have risked their lives crossing the central Mediterranean to Italy. Although the numbers reaching Italy had fallen 70% on July-August 2016 summer arrivals, officials believe there could be a resurgence without continued action.
In 2018, the EU will face calls to top up a similar fund for Syrian refugees in Turkey. The €3bn Turkey fund was created in March 2016 to underwrite further action from Turkish authorities against people smugglers taking refugees and migrants to Europe. A senior EU diplomat said decisions would be needed on replenishing the EU-Turkey fund in the first half of 2018.
The European commission, which manages both funds, wants EU member states to pledge more money from national budgets to keep the EU Africa migration fund going. But some governments want Brussels to find the money from its budget. To date, most of the EU-Africa fund (94%) has come from the EU budget, channelled through the European Development Fund.
In August, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, called for the EU to offer an extra €60m (£56m) to help African countries deal with people who have returned from Europe and to prevent further migration flows.
But the EU has limited room in its existing seven-year budget to find new sources of cash. The UK’s departure, which threatens to punch a €10bn hole in the EU budget, adds to financial pressures at a time when the EU faces more demands on its funds beyond traditional priorities such as farm subsidies and infrastructure projects.
The Guardian UK