African and European leaders met in Paris early this week to discuss migration, which is, according to the latest Eurobarometer study, the second most pressing issue for Europeans after terrorism. The leaders supported moving the EU’s external border into Africa so that asylum application can be handled well before reaching European shores. French President Emmanuel Macron invited a number of African and European heads of state as well as the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, to address terrorism and migration and show political support for a European Commission proposal seeking to speed up processes linked to migration.
President Macron said that the leaders had put together tangible measures to tackle migratory flows by putting together a joint declaration which complements the roadmap proposed by the Commission in the summer. The proposal talks about extending the EU’s external border by setting up asylum and reception centers in Chad and Niger and aims to allow women and men to avoid dangerous areas. The identification of asylum seekers will be managed under the supervision of the UNHCR. EU leaders hope that the management of asylum applications right in Africa will encourage more migrants to return to their countries of origin, which is something many have so far been unwilling to do due to often poor conditions there.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also assured that the EU would provide African countries with resources to manage refugees on the African continent. “We have to stop illegal migration or we are sending the wrong signals,” she added and admitted that development aid was part of the problem. “Niger and Chad are only transit countries, we need to work with countries of origin and use development aid,” Chancellor Merkel explained. Chad and Niger’s leaders both lamented the large numbers of lives already lost during the crisis. “We are losing young Africans between 20 and 30 years old, in the desert and in the Mediterranean. It is a great loss for the continent,” said Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, who also admitted that there is no quick fix.