WASHINGTON – The EU-Africa Summit just held in Malta was supposed to lead to some kind of understanding between African countries and Europe on how to stop or at least reduce the endless flow of illegal economic migrants from Africa. Thousands of people sail across the Mediterranean, every day, in search of a better future in Europe. Many of them drown while trying.
Nothing done in Malta
Needless to say, nothing was accomplished. And it is easy to see why. The African countries have neither the interest nor the capability to stop their (desperate?) citizens from migrating to Europe.
In fact they have an interest in having more of their own people in Europe. These migrants, once they get some work, send money back home. And this large remittances flow allows many of their poor relatives back home to survive. Indeed, this migration created the equivalent of economic welfare programs indirectly funded by European employers.
Therefore, forget about convincing African government about stemming the flow. They now have a vested interest in keeping this economic migration, (and the ensuing revenue stream), going.
That said, even if they really wanted to stop this migration, African leaders do not have the resources, the police forces, or anything akin to them, to stop people from going away.
European Trust Fund to stop migration?
Hard to believe that the EU leaders do not know this. Be that as it may, the Malta meeting was held. And the highlight of the gathering is the EU offer to African leaders of a brand new European Trust Fund of about US $ 1.9 billion. This money will be used to implement poverty reduction measures.
This brilliant initiative is based on the idea that if the Africans were not so poor, they would stay home; and so they would not engage in perilous journeys to Europe with the goal of resettling there.
A couple of dollars per person will not do
Yes, of course, in principle this is true.
However, meaningful African economic development may take another 20 to 30 years. If anybody thinks that this Trust Fund will make any tangible difference, they should have their heads examined.
US $ 1.9 billion sounds like a lot. But Africa has 1.1 billion people, (2013 figures), many of them poor, or very poor. (Two billion divided by 1 billion means two dollars per person). This is a drop in the ocean. Besides, how will this Fund be administered? What kind of projects will be financed? What guarantees do EU leaders have that this money will be spent wisely?
All in all, this is a really stupid idea that will not affect the migration picture in any meaningful way.
The poor are mobile
Here is the harsh reality. In this era of globalization, the poor in Africa “know”, or are led to believe, that there are greener pastures elsewhere. They see themselves trapped in a cycle of perpetual poverty in their own slowly developing countries. (Others are driven away by conflict and destruction in the Middle East or civil war in Libya).
However, now, for the first time in their history, millions of Africa’s poor believe they have a choice. They can emigrate. And so they are willing to take a huge chance and travel to Europe, in most instances paying large fees to traffickers who arrange their travel. This is true of all African economic migrants.
People from Syria, Afghanistan, or Eritrea are a different case. They escape from war, destruction, or tyranny. But, whatever their individual motivations, all these people want to go to Europe because it is within geographic reach, and because they believe that somehow, once there, they can have a fresh start in a more hospitable environment. Right or wrong, it does not matter. This is what they believe, and this belief motivates them.
Can Europe make room for more Africans?
In principle, a 28 member strong European Union could make room for a few million immigrants. But this is not what most Europeans believe. The Europeans are hurting. Some EU economies do poorly, some of them barely have a pulse. The general perception is that countries with high levels of unemployment (12.5% in Italy, above 20% in Spain and Greece) simply cannot afford to welcome hundreds of thousands (overtime millions) of destitute, needy, and illiterate economic migrants.
It is obvious that these people first of all need housing, clothing, food, medical care, and schools. Where is the money to take care of them? On top of that, many if not most of them are Muslim. Which is to say that you have to add religious and cultural differences to the issues negatively affecting rapid integration into the new societies.
If you are an average European looking at all this, you conclude that allowing more immigration is not a positive development likely to benefit Europe. Therefore, you protest loudly. At the next elections you are more likely to vote for a party with a strong anti-immigrant platform.
They keep coming
Bottom line, here is the thing. This seemingly endless migration problem from Africa (and war-torn Middle East) to Europe has no solution. Indeed, short of placing machine guns on the beaches of Sicily, with clear orders to shoot to kill all migrants landing there –and this will never happen, for obvious reasons– there is no way to end this flow of the poor trying to escape poverty. The attraction represented by “rich” Europe is too strong.
The desperate migrants “know” that, once the get to Europe, they are “safe”. Somehow, they will be taken care of. And, after that, some economic prospect, some kind of work, will materialize.
Offering Africa a couple of billion dollars hoping that this would help reduce the volume of this migration crisis is an idea born out of insanity, despair or sheer stupidity. Take your pick.