The European Union is going to push African leaders to contribute to the solution of the refugee crisis at the summit in Malta later this week in exchange for billions of euros in development assistance. After Brussels managed to persuade Turkey to regulate the flow of Syrian refugees, the EU leaders are now turning their attention to another major source of migrants. The Malta summit will host more than 50 leaders from Europe and Africa, including Eritrea, Niger, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan, from which many migrants originate.
On top of making African leaders tackle migration routes, Europe hopes that African countries will take back people classified as economic migrants rather than refugees from war. In return, Europe would provide funding to help solve conflicts and wars and alleviate poverty in Africa. Conflicts and poverty have been the root causes of almost 25 percent of 800,000 migrants this year. Moreover, the European Commission is also expected to announce a 1.8-billion euro emergency trust fund for Africa. A European diplomat commented that this move “is a new impetus we want to give”. Many migrants originating from Africa have also been displaced by the Boko Haram Islamist movement based in north-eastern Nigeria, which is, however, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. To make matters worse, the Lake Chad basin has also been hit by droughts that have displaced about 2.5 million people.
This week’s summit was convened months ago when Libya was still the main transit route for migrants trying to reach the old continent in old vessels and fishing boats. However, since then the principal route has been redirected over the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands, and then up through the Western Balkans. Nevertheless, EU leaders want to keep their focus on Africa as many of the current refugees who arrived in Italy are Eritreans, Sudanese and Nigerians. “Despite the current focus on Syria, the Valletta summit is very important for European capitals, because it is aimed at tackling a long-term problem,” the EU says.