Author : Ottilia Anna Maunganidze
Affiliated organization: African Policy Research Institute (APRI)
Type of publication: Article
Date of publication: November 22nd, 2021
For Africa and Europe, a sustainable partnership is necessary. The geographic and historical proximity of the two continents demand a collaborative relationship between them, particularly where questions of migration arise. This issue has become increasingly urgent for both continents since 2015 in light of the upsurge of migrants and asylum seekers in Europe from the Middle East and Africa.
From the European perspective, unregulated migration out of Africa is of great concern. The European Union (EU) largely approaches migration and mobility from a security perspective, as manifested by two of its four critical areas of focus: fighting irregular migration through enhancing border controls and improving return and readmission.
An African perspective sees this differently, with migration out of Africa drawing attention to the key stressors forcing people to migrate from the continent. These push factors can be identified around the continent’s burgeoning population, poverty, limited economic and employment opportunities, food insecurity and conflict. These stem from a history of underdevelopment and colonialism. Economic opportunities and stability therefore constitute the major pull factors for migrants towards Europe and elsewhere. It is worth noting that 80% of African migration occurs within Africa itself and is therefore primarily viewed by Africa as an ‘internal’ issue, which stands in contrast to the EU, for whom the issue is largely ‘external’.
In light of these different perspectives, how can Africa and Europe ever see eye to eye on migration?
As a developing continent, Africa views migration largely as an issue of demographics and development. The African Union’s (AU) policy documents, including the African Common Position on Migration and Development, Agenda 2063, the Migration Policy Framework for Africa and the Joint Labour Migration Programme, all highlight the connection between migration and development.
Europe, on the other hand, understands this migration and development nexus from a more securitised position, as seen in the proposed New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The New Pact aims to better allocate responsibilities to EU states on migrant arrivals and to streamline the asylum process. While the New Pact places emphasis on its technical aspects, in doing so it avoids dealing with the broader questions presented by the issue of migration itself, such as regular migration and permanent relocation.
The need for migration cooperation between the two continents is clear. The European Commission (EC) included migration and mobility among its five key areas for consideration as part of the new partnership between Africa and Europe.
The relationship between Africa and the EU on mobility and migration is largely framed within the scope of the 2007 Joint Africa-Europe Strategy, where “Migration, Mobility and Employment” were included as one of seven areas for a strategic partnership. The focus of the strategy is on the ways in which migration flows may be more successfully managed, as well as considering how opportunities may be created in Africa for its sustainable development. Other AU-EU policies linked to migration and mobility include the Tripoli Declaration on Migration and Development, the Ouagadougou Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, Especially Women and Children and the Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action for Promotion of Employment and Poverty Alleviation. Four key areas emerge from these policies that could guide a more successful partnership in the future.
Four Key Areas as Possible Inroads for Collaboration between AU-EU
Firstly, legal pathways connected to labor migration are preferable and would limit irregular migration facilitated through smuggling and trafficking, thereby advancing safer, orderly and regular migration consistent with the Global Compact on Migration. Expanding cooperation on legal migration both within Africa and from Africa to Europe is key, particularly in light of the fact that the current costs and restrictions stemming from this pose a barrier to many migrants. The idea of advancing ‘legal pathways’ for labor migrants between Europe and Africa has been part of a joint strategy, agreed in Lisbon since 2007. For its part, the European Commission initiated a legal migration pilot project in 2018 between four AU countries (Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia) and five EU countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Lithuania and Spain). This aimed at expanding legal employment possibilities for African migrants through cooperation with private employers in the EU. Progress up until now, however, remains limited and more solid efforts are required going forward.
Recognising the broader implications presented by growing inequality can be useful in forming a cohesive strategy. These involve reducing precarious employment, eliminating unemployment, mainstreaming remittances, improving returns and readmissions, adopting effective protection mechanisms and encouraging coherence on migration governance approaches
The second key area calls for the two continents to center economic development in their discussions. This incorporates exploring innovative ways of leveraging remittances, enhancing the role of the diaspora and resisting a brain drain from the African continent. Remittances are particularly central to the migration–development nexus since they constitute an increasingly crucial and dependable source of income for African countries. Strengthening the African Institute of Remittances could be one collaborative initiative between the EU and the AU, whereby they could jointly support remittances structures and incentivise money transfers. Africans abroad could also contribute to their countries of origin through the transfer of skills, technologies, finances and knowledge.
The third key area calls on the EU and AU to enhance their partnership on international protection. African states host the largest number of refugees, and providing technical and financial support to them is critical. The comprehensive refugee response framework in the Global Compact for Refugees should be considered to support refugee host communities in Africa. This would require a long-term plan to facilitate an inclusive approach.
The fourth and final key area for consideration is the ways in which the EU and the AU can better collaborate on returns, readmission and reintegration. This would require a significant shift in practice on the part of the EU to ensure that returns are voluntary, safe and dignified in line with international human rights and humanitarian norms. Research shows that the EU’s current approach to this issue hinders progressive migration governance and free trade efforts whilst eclipsing many positive aspects of the relationship between Africa and Europe.
Pursuing a collaborative and constructive approach to the four issues outlined above is key for the AU and EU to be able to form a new partnership. Recognising the broader implications presented by growing inequality can be useful in forming a cohesive strategy. These involve reducing precarious employment, eliminating unemployment, mainstreaming remittances, improving returns and readmissions, adopting effective protection mechanisms and encouraging coherence on migration governance approaches. Collaboration and consultation are the most important determining factors of a successful relationship between Africa and Europe’s approach to migration and mobility.
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