The European idea of setting up “regional disembarkation platforms” did not take root in North African countries including Tunisia. Morocco and the African Union confirmed that they would not support the so-called ‘hot spots’ on their territories. Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said that Europeans were over-reacting and pointed out that the number of migrants attempting to enter Europe has declined to around 80,000 since January this year compared to 300,000 two years ago. Non-profit sector campaigners also pointed out that the hot spots would risk Europe’s reputation and commitments to safeguarding human rights.
During a visit to Tunisia last month, Commission President Jean Claude Juncker repudiated the idea that the European Union was attempting to open migrant camps in North Africa. “This is no longer on the agenda and never should have been,” he said. Last week, Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud commented that the Commission did not like the verbiage being used by media and instead preferred ‘regional disembarkation arrangements’.
Instead of the hot spots, the EU is now looking into ad hoc solutions and several options including a series of “cash-for-migrant controls” agreements with North African countries. The cash-for-migrant idea launched in September and the talks between Brussels and Cairo are still on-going. A deal should be finalized by February 2019 when another EU-Arab League summit is scheduled for. While any possible deal will be worth less than the 4-billion-euro package with Turkey, Egypt is likely to ask for a generous support including low-interest loans. The EU would like to make similar deal with Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.