The Valletta summit's declaration on migration pays lip service to people’s rights and dignity, and leaves grave doubts as to how Europe will in fact improve the lives people in Africa. While EU and African leaders met in Valletta, more people drowned in the sea, razor-wire fences were being erected in Slovenia and Sweden was implementing border controls.
The summit's centerpiece, the EU Trust Fund for Africa, risks blurring the lines between development aid for lifting people out of poverty, and money to bolster African states’ border control. Oxfam calls on the EU and its member states to make clear guarantees that the fund will be used to help vulnerable people, not build barriers.
“The EU Trust Fund for Africa must have a clear separation between development aid and security cooperation envelopes – these have different objectives and do not belong in the same pot. Furthermore, the Fund needs to be explicit about the standards it will apply to non-development projects, especially to ensure respect of people’s rights” said Oxfam’s migration policy lead in Malta, Sara Tesorieri.
Oxfam also warned against making aid to Africa conditional on cooperation on border control. The leaders’ statement from Valletta has declared saving lives and respecting human rights as priorities, and acknowledges the benefits of migration and mobility. However, the European Commission made clear that the EU is mobilizing all means, including development assistance, to incentivize African countries to cooperation on returning people from Europe to Africa.
“EU and African leaders have agreed on many fine words at Valletta. Now they need to live up to them. This will be impossible if the EU continues to prioritize its border security over its fundamental values. Aid is for helping people, not bribing governments,” said Tesorieri.
Oxfam is also concerned that the Trust Fund is set up while the overall EU development budget faces cut backs and an overall reduction in aid to Africa: in parallel to the Valletta Summit, officials from EU member states have been meeting in Brussels to discuss slashing the EU draft budget for 2016.
Currently, for every euro spent by the EU, less than 2 cents goes to programs fighting extreme poverty – yet proposed cuts would reduce the EU’s chief fund for poverty eradication by nearly a quarter.
“While European leaders have been shaking hands and promising greater development cooperation with their African counterparts, their representatives in Brussels have been working to cripple the EU’s ability to fund such cooperation,” said Tesorieri.