Valletta migration summit must not be hijacked by EU border agenda

Published: 11th November 2015

EU and African leaders meeting in Valletta need to use this major summit on migration to address the causes forcing people to flee their homes - if the meeting is to benefit the populations of the African countries taking part, says Oxfam International. With the latest figures showing that over the last 15 years at least 31,000 people have died or gone missing while trying to reach Europe1, the EU must let human rights be the focus at Valletta and not prioritize the EU's own agenda of tightened borders and increased state security.

The EU is expected to use the summit to announce a new Trust Fund for Africa. Oxfam would welcome the decision of the EU to use resources to address issues of poverty, inequality and conflict in Africa. However, the agency objects to the use of such funds to solely curb migration.  Development aid should be used to help eradicate poverty; for schools and clinics, not barbed wire and checkpoints. 

Oxfam’s EU Migration Policy Adviser, Sara Tesorieri, said: "People are more important than borders. When people risk their lives to reach Europe, despite hearing the reports of the too many who have died trying, it clearly tells us the EU’s approach is failing. It is important for Europe to realize that, if managed well, development and prosperity can go hand in hand with the movement of people. The first step at Valletta must be to stop talking about the issue of migration to Europe and start working out how to help these people who are moving to improve their lives.”

Oxfam's research with Adeso and the Global Center on Cooperative Security shows that migration can have a favorable economic impact with net benefits for receiving countries in the terms of labor markets, taxes and social contributions, and economic growth.2 While research by Oxford University suggests that increasing human development is likely to result in higher, rather than lower, levels of mobility.3

“Leaders meeting in Valletta must get to grips with the fact that migration is happening. The vast and varied causes making people migrate have to be unpicked by the EU, not pushed to the side and ignored. These crises include conflict, climate change, inequality, poverty and repressive regimes," said Tesorieri.

Europe must also recognize its contribution to these chronic problems and crises in Africa. It has a duty to act accordingly, by reaching a robust climate deal in Paris, ending the tax-dodging robbing Africa of billions each year, and limiting weapons transfers in compliance with the Arms Trade Treaty to render conflicts in Africa less deadly while providing assistance to African States to effectively implement the treaty themselves.

Oxfam is calling for greater commitment to human security and human rights, sustainable development and prevention of violent conflict. Increased securitization of border control, and greater criminalization of irregular migration, will only increase human suffering and the risks to people’s safety.

2Oxfam, Adeso and Global Center on Cooperative Security “Hanging by a Thread”, February 2015.

3Inter alia: de Haas, Hein: “Migration transitions: a theoretical and empirical inquiry into the developmental drivers of international migration”, Working Papers, International Migration Institute. University of Oxford: 2010. 


Notes to editors


Download Oxfam's Position Paper for the EU-AU Migration Summit

1. Sara Tesorieri, Oxfam’s EU Migration Policy Adviser, will be attending the Valletta summit. To arrange interviews, please contact Ludovica Jona, Media Officer, in Valletta (mobile: +39 338 8786870, email:

2. Download Oxfam's position paper for the EU-Africa Summit on Migration 

3. Figures from the Migrants Files (

  • In the last 15 years at least 31,476 people have died or have gone missing trying to reach Europe - this includes 24,022 dead or missing long the Central and Western Mediterranean routes from North Africa to Europe. 
  • Over the same period the EU has spent €11.3 billion on deportations and a further €1.7 billion on:- detention centers outside the EU - including in Libya; technical assistance to North African countries to prevent refugees and migrants from crossing into Europe; fences and walls including the 11km barrier in Ceuta on the North African coast; drones, speedboats, night vision goggles, jeeps and other equipment for EU border guards; coordinating EU border response efforts. 
  • On a similar scale, refugees have paid €16 billion to travel to Europe. 

4. Oxfam has been working in Italy since 2011 to help asylum seekers that arrived in Italy through the Central Mediterranean Route. Our program in Sicily is focused on integrating the Italian authorities response to better meet the needs of the most vulnerable people who seeking asylum in Italy. Oxfam and its partners provide legal, psychological and health assistance to children and young people travelling alone, to women and other people in need. Only this year, 142,400 people arrived in Italy, and almost 95, 000 of them in Sicily only. 70% of them comes from Africa, with more than half these arrivals coming from just 4 countries - Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan. Their journeys have often lasted months, sometimes more than a year, and they have often experienced trauma and abuses along the way. (Source: UNHCR, 31st October 2015)

Contact information

Attila Kulcsar | Humanitarian Media Officer | | +447471 142974

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