Europe’s efforts to stop migrants from leaving their home countries in Africa are starting to pay off, the EU’s foreign policy chief said Tuesday.
Referring to what she called “the first operational results” of a new Commissionprogram to tackle migration issues at the root by offering countries financial and operational support, Federica Mogherini said the EU efforts had led to fewer migrants reaching Europe.
“Since we started a total of 59 programs for the amount of €927 million have been adopted,” Mogherini said. “The activity between the Commission and member states is working in an excellent way.”
The program is one of several EU efforts to deal with migration flows into Europe, which also include a deal with Turkey to stop migrants coming from the Middle East. It includes financial investments in five African countries — Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia — but officials say it could be soon extended to other regions.
In a statement, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the new progress report “shows that this new approach works, in the interest of both the EU and partner countries. Now the task is to step up our efforts and deliver a lasting change in the way we manage mobility and migration with our partners in Africa and the neighborhood.”
The report looks at how migration flows have been reduced, including by sending “irregular” migrants — those not eligible for asylum — back to their home countries. In Niger, for example, “there has also been a significant increase in voluntary returns, from 1,721 returns in 2015 to more than 3,020 in the first eight months of 2016.”
Returns are one of the most critical points for the EU migration strategy, since Commission data shows that on average only 40 percent of those who are not entitled to stay are sent back. Yet Mogherini refused to engage in a precise definition of success of the initiative since the standard “changes country by country.”
A second report will be presented in December ahead of a meeting of EU leaders. Officials said that pressure to deliver is very strong but that coordination between the Commission and member countries in this field is going well, driven by fear in many countries that the far-right could capitalize on any failure in the return policy.