11/2017 | Reading time: 15 minutes
Antonio Tajani’s suggestion about a new Marshall Plan is one of the initiatives which aims to manage migration in the long run. Over the past few months, the idea that the problem needs to be handled locally in Africa has become increasingly popular. To handle the problem, however, we should understand the root causes of migration. At the same time, we should consider the ways and means to mitigate the problems of the continent, too. So far, there is no comprehensive, viable solution, only initiatives. We attempt to present some of these, with special focus on Tajani’s initiative and the idea of creating hotspots in Africa.
Due to the restrictive measures introduced by Italy and Libya, the number of arrivals from Libya to Italy through the Mediterranean route notably decreased during the summer (the context of this phenomenon was discussed in our previous article). As the background of this decline, changes in the location and distribution of migrants should be mentioned. The change in distribution means that asylum seekers were constrained to stay in Libya (consequently, the majority of them are not able to reach Europe’s coasts), and the “destiny” of asylum seekers is practically in the hands of the Libyan authorities. The decline in numbers, which has reduced the previous pressure experienced by the “Old Continent” and especially by Italy, has been evaluated as a positive result by both the European Union and Italy. However, the decrease does not mean that we should underestimate the challenges of migration. In order to analyse the risk of the problem more efficiently, it is worth examining the background of the challenges, their root causes, and their possible solutions.
According to the data reported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more or less 600,000 people have arrived to the South-Italian coasts on the Mediterranean Sea in the last four years. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of foreign nationals currently staying and waiting in Libya for further border crossing; this number was approximately 700,000 to 1,000,000 in October. It is important to emphasize that, although the pressure on Italy has sometimes been very heavy in the recent years, we should be careful with expressions such as “migration crisis” or “migration invasion,” that are frequently used by the media. When we examine the trends of migration, it should also be observed how the number of migrants has changed globally over the past few years, and how this number is distributed among the various parts of the world.
The expert of the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), Marie-Laurence Flahaux, reveals in his analysis in a migration report that migration from Africa, in proportion to the total African population, has actually slightly decreased since the 1990s, with special regard to sub-Saharan migration. In 2015, there were 244 million “international migrants” in the world, i.e. 3.3% of the world’s total population. It is important to emphasize that the great majority of African migrants move within the continent.
For example, the instability in the neighbouring countries made Uganda the fifth largest refugee‑receiving country in the world, with 940,800 in 2016, followed by Ethiopia with 791,600 in 2017. Statistics show that the top receiving countries have been forced to host one and a half times more migrants in one year than Italy over the last four years (which is approximately 600,000). Mentioning these numbers, the author of this article does not state that the burden on Europe should be underestimated; it must be emphasized, however, that it is always reasonable to view the overly pessimistic opinions and future visons with scepticism.
Migration is widely recognised as a complex phenomenon that cannot be considered as the result of one single factor, but rather multiple factors, such as social, economic, political and environmental elements, which may, in some cases, complement or reinforce each other and encourage migration more intensely. When examining the so called “push factors,”* which can influence or inspire migration, the following examples should be mentioned: weak state actors, bad governance, ethnic and tribal conflicts, dictatorships, military coups, civil wars, fragile and failed states, Islamist militant groups, poor economic conditions and, as a result, poverty, hopelessness. These “classical” problems are sometimes accompanied by the effects of climate change in Africa, such as food security challenges, famine, drought, desertification, unequal distribution of land, lack of techniques and infrastructure, and as a consequence, fight for land, drinking water, food, and raw materials between the different tribes and communities.
When we examine the potential risks of migration, it is worth considering the fertility rates and statistics too, as, according to current surveys, the population of Africa is expected to double by 2050 (reaching 2,2 billion people) and then, it may come to 4 billion by 2100. This population growth may certainly increase future migration trends, and at the same time, due to the complexity of problems existing in Africa and the various threatening factors, the number of migrants that can potentially leave their homes in the future can be significantly high.
With regards to handling the root causes of migration and managing ad hoc situations as a result of migrant flows (such as ships arriving to the South-Italian coasts with high numbers of asylum seekers), there are many different ideas and initiatives. A comprehensive European strategy has not been established so far. Some Member States of the European Union make their best to respond to the problem, with more or less success. At one point, however, a kind of agreement seems to evolve on the fact that migration should be tackled locally, focusing on the root causes of the problem. It is worth mentioning two possible alternatives that seem to follow this approach and that have become quite popular for the past months. The first is the idea of a new “Marshall Plan” for Africa, and the second is the new plan of creating hotspots (registration centres where asylum requests should be handled in the future) to control migrant flows at the local level.
The question of development aid to Africa and economic recovery, as well as the idea of creating hotspots on the continent were priority topics for the Paris Mini-Summit on Migration organized on 28 August. French President Emmanuel Macron convened a conference to discuss solutions for the global challenges of migration. The invited guests included his counterparts from Niger and Chad, as well as the head of the Libyan unity government Fayez al-Sarraj, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish and Italian Prime Ministers Mariano Rajoy and Paolo Gentiloni, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. During the G20 Summit in Hamburg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel focused on the idea of supporting African states by private investment, and released a potpourri of initiatives to push development: besides the “Marshall Plan for Africa,” there is a “Compact with Africa,” and a “Pro! Afrika” plan. The first two initiatives focus on investment, while “Pro! Afrika” intends to promote the competitiveness of the region through digitalisation.
It seems that Merkel’s idea has been gaining support from more and more people over the past period. The President of the European Parliament (EP), Antonio Tajani, also proposed a Marshall Plan for Africa in October during his two-day official visit in Tunisia. In his speech, Tajani stated that the European Union (EU) intends to allocate about EUR 40 billion of investment to Africa from its next budget for economic and social assistance and for the promotion of competitiveness of the continent. By comparison, it is worth pointing out that since the inception of the EU Trust Fund for Africa (the framework of agreement was signed during the Valletta Summit on Migration in 2015), the total amount of resources made available for the most fragile countries of three African regions (the Sahel region and Lake Chad, the Horn of Africa and North Africa**), has increased to more than EUR 3.2 billion. The rationale of Merkel’s and Tajani’s initiative is that more investment will lead to the creation of new jobs, and then people stay in their home countries. The idea of fostering investments has become more and more popular, while others expressed scepticism. Firstly, they emphasized that “it will be largely the wealthier countries in Africa that will profit from the initiative, while many of the 34 countries in Africa that the U.N. considers “least developed countries” (LDC) could go away empty-handed. Secondly, “The past has shown us that big investment often leads to ecological catastrophes, which then, in turn, lead to humanitarian catastrophes.”
The other plan, the idea of creating hotspots, was raised by French President Emmanuel Macron. During the summer, Mr Macron sought to seize the initiative on managing the flow of migrants by creating “hotspots” in African countries to handle asylum requests, clarify the status of migrants, and decide whether they are eligible for international protection or they are coming with economic purposes. The main role of these centres would be the sorting of people with the purpose to decide who is eligible for international protection under the Geneva Convention. This procedure would stop those migrants who are not eligible for protection to enter Europe. The actual implementation of the plan is still unclear, and so is the scope of authority of the centres and the financial framework. Previously, more people agreed that hotspots should be created in Libya, but the current political instability of the country does not seem to allow the realization of this plan. Considering this, at the Paris Summit, the parties tended to agree that camps should be established in Niger and Chad. Chad’s foreign minister, however, expressed his concern about hotspots, highlighting that, as a consequence of creating such facilities, the country would be overwhelmed by the a large number of migrants, which could produce a kind of black spot in the country and trigger an uncontrollable process.
The reasoning behind these initiatives is unarguable; at the same time, however, it would be necessary to give a framework for them through solid plans, agreements, and goals. Moreover, financial resources and a time frame of availability would be key factors as well. Considering the complexity of the continent’s problems, decades and hundreds of billions are necessary to achieve long-term results. The main criticism toward hotspots is that Europe intends to diminish its own responsibility with regards to the issues, while putting more and more pressure on African states. The author of this article believes that even though the decision on hotspots will be a key factor in managing migration, the main responsibility of the international community and the European Union is to guarantee both the security of the people eligible for international protection (through creating hotspots either in Europe or in Africa) and the security of its own citizens, while also considering the humanitarian and security aspects of the issue.
* With regards to the root causes of international migration, the classic theory of the so-called push and pull models should be mentioned. Fundamentally, the theory is based on the fact that potential migrants in the country of destination are inspired to immigrate by the factors they find attractive, whereas, in contrast, the repulsive factors in their country encourage them to emigrate.
** The Trust Fund has been created to support a band of countries across Africa that are among the most fragile and affected by migration. The countries are: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal in the Sahel region and Lake Chad; Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda belong in the Horn of Africa and Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia in North of Africa.
Opening pic: Flickr
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