EU warned it is ill-prepared for African migration rush
European Parliament chief calls for Marshall plan to give people reasons to stay at home
Population growth in Africa threatens to push millions of people to an ill-prepared Europe in the next decades, the European Parliament president has warned, in a sign of wider fears over the EU’s migration strategy.
Antonio Tajani called for a “Marshall plan” for Africa to supersede scattergun EU and national government initiatives in an effort to give people more reasons to stay in their home countries.
Mr Tajani’s remarks ahead of a biennial EU-Africa summit in Ivory Coast this week echo wider concerns that Europe still lacks a viable long-term plan on migration should a recent sharp fall in numbers start to reverse.
Poverty, climate change and conflict in some African states would exacerbate the impact of sharp population growth in driving people from the continent. “Altogether these problems are a bomb,” he said. “The problems will push, without a solution, millions of people from Africa to Europe.”
Improved EU co-ordination and a €40bn Marshall plan to invest in long-term initiatives were needed to help stem the flow of people, he said. EU countries should look for imaginative ways to generate funds, such as levies on internet companies and tax havens, rather than tap European citizens.
“Without a strategy we will have terrorism, illegal immigration, instability,” said Mr Tajani, a close ally of Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister who signed a contentious 2008 deal on migration with Col Muammer Gaddafi’s Libya. “There are too many voices on Libya, on Africa.”
Migration has slipped down the European agenda after sharp falls over the past two years in the numbers of people taking the eastern Mediterranean route to Turkey and the central Mediterranean route to Italy. The EU has invested in measures ranging from a crackdown on people smuggling in the west African state of Niger to a 2016 accord for Turkey to take back migrants who cross to Greek islands.
The EU-Africa summit in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, is focused on youth but EU diplomats say migration will also inevitably be discussed.
“We don’t want this to be a summit on migration but it is, of course, a part of our relationship,” said one senior EU official. Libya was a “major crisis” on which the EU, UN and intergovernmental African Union all needed to “step up”.
The EU aims to address “root causes” of migration by investments ranging from vocational training to support for the development of companies to work in the ethical fashion supply chain. EU member states also have myriad bilateral projects with African counterparts.
Many EU diplomats acknowledge the likelihood of another migration surge, amplified over time by the demographic trends in some big African countries. But the matter’s scale, complexity and geographic spread have made it hard to address at an EU level, they add.
“The awareness is there, but launching this kind of grand strategy is probably not feasible now,” one EU diplomat said of Mr Tajani’s plan. “But there is a feeling that we should be able to develop some elements that would enable us to be more up to the task.”
As Negev detention centre closes, Israel prepares to deport African migrants
Government preparing to send migrants to Rwanda, which will accept them for $5000 per head
Israel’s government has decided to close the Holot migrant detention facility in the Negev desert as part of a crackdown on the country’s illegal migrants originating from Africa.
Instead of being kept in open detention, those without a legal residence permit will be given the choice of going to prison indefinitely or being deported to Rwanda.
The government claimed the new policy, which attracted support from sections of opposition parties Labour and Yesh Atid, was moral and confirmed to international law.
There is no certainty in Israel on how many foreign citizens are currently living without a legal permit.
An estimated 40 thousand refugees from Sudan and Eritrea are claiming to be political asylum seekers, but the government insists they are work migrants.
The African migrants have been in the country for at least five years, arriving on foot through the Sinai Desert before a new border fence was completed in early 2013.
Most live packed into apartment blocks in the working-class neighbourhoods in South Tel Aviv, where they find support only from a few left-wing MPs and a handful of charities.
Israel has an agreement with Rwanda, which will accept migrants at $5,000 (£3,760) a head, concluded after an earlier agreement with Uganda fell through.
The few thousand migrants who have so far voluntarily agreed to go to Rwanda have each been given $2,000 each, but it is still unclear whether this arrangement will hold for the tens of thousands still remaining.
Even if the Africans are all deported at a cost of a quarter of a billion US dollars, unknown numbers of migrants from the former Soviet Union will remain.
Immigration experts believe there are much larger numbers of Russian, Ukrainian and Georgian citizens living illegally in Israel, but critics say they are less obtrusive because they are white and live among the Russian-speaking communities around the country.
The closure of Holot comes as Israel confronts some of the most sweeping demographic changes in its history. With over eight million citizens, a relatively high birth-rate and an attractive quality of life, it is rapidly becoming comparable to many countries in Europe.
This has attracted migrants from poorer parts of the world looking for a new life, but Israel remains a special case because it is locked in a complex demographic balance with the Palestinian population. There is no standard naturalisation process in the country either, apart from the Law of Return that allows Jews and their family members to emigrate.
With unemployment at an all-time low and Israeli business already employing over fifty thousand Palestinian workers with daily work-permits, supporters believe the Israeli economy could easily absorb the African migrants.
But allowing the Africans to work legally in Israel would mean changing the country’s immigration laws and opening an avenue for large numbers of non-Jews to move to Israel. For the moment, that remains a political taboo.