WHY THE EU’S ‘MIGRANT SWAP’ OFFER TO AFRICAN COUNTRIES IS NOT THE ANSWER TO THE MIGRANT CRISIS

The European Union (EU) is offering a deal to African countries to receive some of their illegal, and unskilled migrants. The deal involves a 1.3 billion-pound plan to provide cash to African governments while also opening the door to African students, doctors, entrepreneurs, and other professionals, by way of granting them European visas, in what is being termed a ‘migrant swap’. African countries directly involved include Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda.

Controversy immediately surrounded the terms of the ‘deal’, and critics such as Nigel Farage (UK Independence Party Leader) and David Blair (Chief Foreign Correspondent, The Telegraph) labelled them as unrealistic, and in fact “sheer madness”. To further stress the point, the EU was accused of attempting to strip Africa of its “highly skilled and expensively trained citizens”.

The initiative did not particularly sit well with Britain, whose stance on migration is not as flexible. Thus, the provisions in the EU’s decision places Britain in a difficult situation concerning its position in the union. In line with referendum reforms that it wishes to make, Prime Minister, David Cameron, might be pushed to vote Britain out of the Union, come Wednesday’s summit on the migrant crisis to be held in Malta.

More crucial than the EU-Britain situation, however, is the implication of the proposed deal on both the ongoing crisis situation and – should they accept the terms – Africa. As noble as the causes presented in the fourth draft of the Valletta Summit Action Plan may seem, they belie a serious lack of consideration for the African continent and its citizens.

First, the accusation of having Africa’s ‘valuable’ citizens stolen from them is quite pertinent. Under the “Legal migration and mobility” provision, a lot of Africans themselves would actually consider participating in the swap, based on the promise of easy access to visas alone.

As David Blair posits, most of the Africans in this category happen to be part of the wealthy class, who are constantly seeking out new ways to make visa acquisition easy for their personal purposes, thereby making them the sole beneficiaries of the proposed relaxed terms.

In light of the above, and for more reasons, despite its “Humanitarian response” clause, the EU’s plan does not attempt to offer more lasting solutions to economic problems in Africa. The less privileged asylum seekers trying to escape severe economic and social conflicts in their countries, and for whom going back is not an option, are not covered.

For Europe, the decision of the EU is justifiable, as the migrant situation could present them with a potential economic catastrophe if not handled properly, starting with how they control their borders. Therefore, a selection process of sorts is not entirely an overreaction. But ultimately, the plan does not solve the migrant crisis for Europe itself, but rather exposes their inability to tackle the issue at hand, while creating a possible financial debt issue in the future stemming from trying to maintain the plan.

The Draft Four of the Valletta Summit Action Plan will be up for debate several hours from now, and hopefully, the EU will manage to reach a loophole-free agreement in addressing the migrant crisis beyond a quick fix.

Source: Cynthia Okoroafor, Ventures africa

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