EU sets up centre in Africa to fight illegal migration

The European Union on Monday moved to export its controls on illegal immigration for the first time by setting up a new office in Africa, the first of several it plans to open to try to deal at source with a flood of migration.

Louis Michel, the EU’s development commissioner, went to Bamako, the capital of Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries, to open the Migration Management Centre and inaugurate a pilot scheme to try to dissuade Africans from taking the hazardous routes to Europe.

”This centre paves the way for managing migration flows more effectively,” said Michel. ”Instead of demonising the migration phenomenon, it should be supported, structured and managed optimally.”

Mali is a hub for tens of thousands of Africans who try to get to Europe illegally every year by embarking on boats to Spain’s Canary Islands from the west coast of Africa. Many of them die en route.

Last week Spanish coastguards rescued a group of 230 Africans — the largest single boat load of illegal immigrants to reach Spain.

Mali is the world’s fifth poorest country and an estimated four million of its 12-million population are abroad.

As well as seeking to stem illegal migration to the EU, the new Bamako centre is also to act as a reception point for illegal immigrants who have returned or been deported to Africa, as well as acting as a clearing house for legal migrants.

The aim is that individual EU countries, for example France and Spain, will use the centre to offer seasonal work for temporary legal migrants. The commission hopes the Mali project will be the first of a network of European migration centres across West Africa. But aid workers and NGOs are sceptical that African expectations of job offers and recruitment centres will be met.

The Association of Malian Deportees, which operates as an aid organisation for returned immigrants, complained that the new centre was being established simply to strengthen the EU borders against illegal immigration and to facilitate the more efficient expulsion of immigrants from Europe.

The new centre is also to act as a transfer point for the remittances of Malians abroad sending money home to their families. —

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