The situation along the Central Mediterranean migration route remains shocking. Over the past five years, more than 500,000 people have embarked on, to say nothing of those that have suffered or perished on the road to the coast. With more than 500,000 illegal or irregular migrants having embarked on a perilous journey across the Mediterranean over the past five years, though the number of people arriving has decreased, there are concerns about the viability of current policies to deter people from crossing.
Protracted asylum procedures in many member states and inefficient return policies mean that many irregular migrants stay in the EU for a lengthy period even if their asylum applications are rejected, albeit with restricted access to the labor market and uncertain prospects of ever obtaining a regular status. A second factor shaping irregular crossings is the lack of legal migration options available to nationals of African countries. The existing schemes mainly target highly skilled individuals (with the EU Blue card directive or equivalent member state schemes) or seasonal workers.
Finally, there is the issue of enforcement of return decisions. Enforcing ‘ordered to leave’ decisions is difficult, especially so when it comes to African nationalities. All in all, the lack of effective cooperation with African countries on return and readmission of their nationals on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the limited and decreasing options to enter the EU labor markets for African citizens illustrate the lack of joint migration management between the two sides of the Mediterranean. While proper management of migration across the Mediterranean Sea requires close cooperation between the EU and African countries, the EU lacks a credible long-term program to engage African countries on migration issues.
Therefore, we propose an ambitious EU-Africa partnership scheme for human capital formation and skill mobility that can be embedded into the current framework for EU-Africa dialogue. The scheme comprises three elements: First, extensive vocational training programs would be set up in African countries, funded by the EU or individual member states, to train participants according to labor market needs in both the EU and African countries. Second, EU member states would issue a substantial number of work permits, offering program graduates a good chance of employment in the EU while allowing member states to manage the inflow of workers according to their needs. Third, the private sector would be actively involved in planning and implementing vocational training programs to ensure that graduates are employable in the EU and to facilitate job search and hiring across the Mediterranean.
In order to be successful, the envisioned scheme must have a strong partnership dimension, inducing long-term commitments by European and African countries. The European Commission has a natural role in coordinating efforts on the EU side, with the goal of enhancing cooperation in overall migration management within the European Agenda on Migration. A scheme for human capital formation and skills mobility presents a promising and lasting development tool based on long-term cooperation and benefit-sharing between the EU and African countries.
The proposed scheme complements existing pathways for labor migration, provides for member state autonomy in its implementation and requires no new legislation except for provision of the EU funding. The scheme fits in the current legal framework for labor migration into the EU, and should be seen as one element in building a comprehensive forward-looking partnership with Africa for the benefit of all stakeholders involved in both origin and destination countries.
‚An EU-Africa Partnership Scheme for Human Capital Formation and Skill Mobility‘ – Project Report by Mikkel Barslund, Mattia Di Salvo, Nadzeya Laurentsyeva, Luca Lixi and Lars Ludolph – Centre for European Policy Studies / CEPS.