EU ministers must change course on migration cooperation with Africa

Published: 11th May 2016

European foreign ministers meeting on Thursday to assess the six months since November’s Valletta Summit on migration from Africa must shift their focus to the urgent needs of people fleeing from violence and human rights abuses, said Oxfam and ICMC. As the death toll rises in the central Mediterranean, the EU has increased the amount of money given to many of the same regimes that people are so desperately fleeing from.

Ministers will review the ‘EU Trust Fund for Africa’, which has received heavy criticism from civil society for its blurring of lines between development work – which is aimed at lifting people out of poverty - and security projects meant to strengthen border control and stop people on the move. 

Oxfam’s EU Migration Policy Adviser, Sara Tesorieri, said: "Six months ago, EU leaders met in Valletta and committed to prioritizing saving lives and respecting human rights. Now, they are instead making deals to give money to countries known for systematic violations of human rights – all in the name of controlling migration. It is unacceptable for the EU to think it can outsource its border control to third countries and drop human rights safeguards.”

Oxfam and ICMC do, however, welcome the Commission’s recent plan, “Lives in Dignity”, which aims to use development aid for helping people in situations of long-term displacement. With 86% of the world’s refugees living in developing countries, it is essential that wealthier regions like Europe do their fair share to support refugees. Ministers should endorse this new approach and pledge increased financing to help the people who have been forced to flee their homes live in greater dignity. But in order to be effective, all such aid must be given based on genuine need, not to serve security interests. 

“We fear that such a strategy may increasingly be lost in schemes for regional containment of African mobility that restrict rights and protection of people, without proposing any viable alternatives to forced and irregular migration,” said ICMC Head of Policy John K. Bingham

Oxfam and ICMC are calling on European ministers to: 

•    Guarantee that development aid will not be used as a bargaining chip to prevent migration, but will be needs-based and aimed at eradicating poverty and inequality in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty. The EU Trust Fund should be used solely for funding development projects, not migration management. 

•    Ensure long-term approaches to the genuine problems of conflict and fragility, avoiding short-term and reactive measures based on bolstering state security without addressing root causes. Include civil society participation – especially of local organizations – in the Rabat and Khartoum Processes and the High-Level Dialogues on Migration. 

Notes to editors

•    The ‘EU Trust Fund for Africa’ formed the centerpiece of the Valletta Summit on migration in Nov. 2015. 
•    Upon the launch of this trust fund, Oxfam warned that it must be used to help people, not build barriers. The ICMC-coordinated Migration and Development Civil Society Network MADE likewise urged leaders to prioritize people over borders.


Contact information

Oxfam: Theresa Crysmann,, t +32 2 234 11 29

ICMC: Sophie Ngo-Diep,, t +32 2 646 7400 

For updates, please follow @Oxfam and @OxfamEU.

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