30 Sep 2014

Lampedusa - Why did so many Africans die?

By Ida Horner

The small Italian island of Lampedusa is still in shock following the death of at least 311 African migrants. The question that has preoccupied analysts as well as the rest of the world is, why did this happen?

An Interviewee on PM, a BBC Radio 4 flagship news program argued that so many Africans died because Africans cannot swim; the interviewee observed that if the immigrants were good swimmers they would have stood a very good chance of surviving because the capsized boat was very close to its destination.

Is this yet another stereotype about Africans inability to swim? After all, it is possible that the people on the boat were too tired and weak to swim after a long a journey. His comment further ignores the courage and determination displayed by a people in search of a better life for themselves and their families in Europe.

The reasons why people immigrate are complex and are to do with a confluence of factors such as poverty, human rights abuses, poor governance, and political instability in countries of origin. Irregular immigration of the kind we have witnessed at Lampedusa is risky and most observers accept that something has to be done to ensure that the Mediterranean Sea does not become a cemetery to immigrants.

Irregular immigration impacts both Africa and Europe. We must therefore ask what the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) are doing about causes of irregular immigration. Through its development policy, the EU has an impressive array of programs intended to address most of the factors that lead to irregular immigration including a Joint Africa -EU Action plan on Migration, Mobility and Employment 2011- 2013 on how both continents intend to manage legal and irregular migration. [Editors Note: This has been superseded with a Joint Declaration on Migration and Mobility 2014-2017 at the 4th Africa EU Summit in April 2014]

On irregular migration, there would be increased dialogue between countries of origin, transit and destination to tackle issues such as human trafficking and the selling of people. An example of such dialogue started with talks between Italy’s Berlusconi and Libya’s Gaddafi in which the EU is said to have promised Gaddafi 5 billion Euros a year to stop African immigrants over running European capitals and turning them black.

In spite of such measures irregular migration continues. Why is this?

According to Jimmy Kainja, Blogger and Media scholar based in Malawi:

“The EU has taken a lead but the ultimate problem and solution lies within African boundaries, not Europe. The African Union should take a lead. These are African citizens running away from their homelands. Solutions ought to be there. It is a shame that it is Europe that seems to care. The AU is happy to convene and discuss saving African leaders from the actions of the ICC than discussing the plight of its people. Folks buried in unmarked graves far away from their homelands.”

I would add that, one of the reasons for increased irregular migration is that whilst the EU has transferred a huge amount of resources to facilitate development in African countries, those resources are not always used appropriately nor evenly distributed.

Some amongst the African leaders siphon off the resources for personal use, with impunity in most cases. When this happens, citizens are left poor and unable to meet their basic needs such as access to food, health and education. Citizens that are preoccupied with putting food on the table are consequently unlikely to have time to engage in the political process and such become politically excluded and voiceless

In addition, some of the resources transferred to Africa by European countries find their way back to Europe.

Another issue for consideration is to do with decisions taken within the EU with respect to trade, agriculture, and security, particularly how well such policies fit in and or compliment the stated aims of the EU’s development policy and their impact on African countries. [Editors Note: See Policy Coherence for Development]

It is worthwhile too, examining the structure of EU trade agreements with African countries from the point of view of the extent to which such policies are equitable and how they contribute to mitigating the reasons why irregular migration is on the increase.

For instance a report by the Transnational Institute, entitled the European Union and the Global Land Grab, argues that the EU’s foreign direct investment policy was designed to favour foreign investors instead of balancing the power between the host countries and investor whilst the EU’s Trade Policy called Everything But Arms (EBA) has contributed to land grabs for the growing of sugars etc., for export into the EU.

The implication of these policies is that they work against the EU’s development policy with the effect of rendering it ineffective in impacting the reasons for the increased irregular immigration into Europe and contributing to human trafficking.

Ida Horner is Managing Director of Ethnic Supplies, a social enterprise working to alleviate poverty amongst East African women involved in textile and handicraft production. She is also Managing Editor of Africa on the Blog, where this article first appeared.

She is a Community Development Consultant, chairing a community development charity ‘Let Them Help Themselves Out of Poverty’. Follow her on Twitter @idahorner

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM.

The photo is courtesy of Noborder Network.

For more analysis of the EU’s migration policy challenges, read the following blogs from ECDPM:

29 Sep 2014

To be or not to be a European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development?

"That's the question. It Sounds like an important position. But what exactly is the role of a Commissioner? And who appoints them and how? A picture is worth 1000 words!"

Here is a very handy guide, courtesy of the European Parliament, on how it chooses its College of Commissioners.

On Monday 29th September, the European Parliament will conduct a hearing for Neven Mimica to become the EU's Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. According to the Mission Letter sent by Jean-Claude Juncker, President-elect of the European Commission, some of the priorities for Mimica should be:

  • Preparing the Commission and EU positions for the negotiations on the post-2015 United Nations Millennium Development Goal agenda. 
  • Preparing and launching negotiations for a revised Cotonou agreement. 
  • Working closely with the High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President, the Commissioner for Trade and the Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs to strengthen the EU’s strategic partnership with Africa.

Watch the Q&A at the hearing here

You can download Neven Mimica's CV and watch the hearing here

Video and Photo Courtesy of the European Parliament

Views expressed here are not necessarily those of ECDPM

25 Sep 2014

EU-Africa cooperation: where is civil society?

by Isabelle Brachet

At the beginning of April, more than 60 EU and African leaders met in Brussels to discuss the future of EU-Africa relations. The summit confirmed the commitment of both continents to the objectives set out in the 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy. However, leaders agreed that the implementation of the Joint Strategy should be further improved and that cooperation should be guided by a result-oriented approach. The summit adopted a roadmap to frame EU-Africa relations for 2014-2017.

The only reference to civil society in the Summit declaration is that the leaders “take note of the Africa-EU civil society organisatons’ forum meeting of October 2013 and of the youth forum of April 2014”. The Roadmap specifies that “It was agreed to (…) promote contributions from the private sector and civil society”. It further reads “We will ensure the full and active participation of civil society in our dialogue and our cooperation”. But how will this happen in practice, especially in view of the limited connections between the Summit and the EU-Africa Civil Society Forum?

The leaders of both continents opted for a more flexible institutional architecture for their cooperation, with Summits every three years, ministerial meetings when needed, and an annual forum to review progress in the implementation of the roadmap. Ad hoc expert working groups may also be established but, when possible, implementation will be driven by existing bodies. This is the case for example on agriculture, where cooperation will take place within the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Partnership (CAADP) partnership.

CAADP is the main African development programme to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture. It notably requires African countries to commit at least ten per cent of their national budgets to agricultural development and seeks to raise agricultural productivity in Africa. The CAADP Partnership Platform is an annual meeting bringing together key stakeholders such as African governments, policy makers, civil society organisations and farmers’ organisations to assess progress made in implementing the CAADP goals.

It is a welcome move that this body will be the one to review progress in EU-Africa cooperation on agriculture because it is the most legitimate African institution to coordinate efforts on agriculture on the continent. However, CSOs’ participation should definitely be strengthened in the CAADP so that smallholder producers can participate in shaping their future. Smallholder farmers represent the main providers of food for Africans and are the biggest private investors in African agriculture.

So, what comes next? If the CAADP Partnership is to contribute to the implementation of EU-Africa cooperation on agriculture, it is one more reason for the European Union to support current efforts in Africa to ensure a stronger participation of civil society in the CAADP process. And ActionAid will certainly keep pushing in that direction, in Addis and in Brussels.

Isabelle Brachet is EU Policy Advisor at ActionAid’s EU Office

This article was originally published by ActionAid EU

The views expressed here are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of ECDPM

Photo Courtesy of Travis Lupick