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Report demonstrates priority given by EU to migration control in the Sahel

Report demonstrates priority given by EU to migration control in the Sahel

The work of the EU and its Member States to try to limit the "unprecedented numbers of irregular migrants coming through the Sahel to the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea in order to travel to Europe" are outlined in a recent joint report by the European Commission and the European External Action Service on the implementation of the EU's Sahel Regional Action Plan (RAP) between April 2015 and August 2016.

See: European Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Annual Report on the Sahel Regional Action Plan (SWD(2016) 482 final, 23 December 2016, pdf)

The RAP concerns Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad.

It was adopted on 20 April 2015 and has four priorities: preventing and countering radicalisation; creating appropriate conditions for youth; migration and mobility; and border management, illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime.

See: Council conclusions on the Sahel Regional Action Plan 2015-2020 (7823/15, pdf, including Regional Action Plan in annex)

The "unprecedented numbers of irregular migrants" travelling north via the Sahel, potentially to Europe, "have put migration and mobility at the forefront of the RAP during the report period," says the Commission/EEAS report.

Niger appears to be the big success story in this regard, with the report saying that this "key transit country" has demonstrated:

"a major commitment to develop closer cooperation on migration with the EU, including an Action Plan to fight against smuggling, decrease irregular migration, and provide alternative economic opportunities to the communities most involved in smuggling operations. On the EU side, the existing CSDP mission to Niger (EUCAP Sahel Niger) has set up a permanent field office (Antenna) in Agadez, providing training and advice to the Niger civil security forces and prosecutors. Member States' support has included the provision of key equipment to assist the Niger authorities.

The report offers some numbers:

Results can already been seen on the ground, with a dramatic decrease in the number of persons leaving Niger to cross the Sahara (from over 70,000 in May to around 1,500 in November). 4,430 migrants have already benefited from assisted voluntary returns to their countries. Finally, between mid-July and end of October, 95 vehicles were seized, 102 smugglers sent to justice, and 9 gendarmes were arrested for migration-linked corruption."

The EU has three CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) missions in the Sahel region (EUCAP Sahel Niger, EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUTM Mali) and they:

"have been adapted to the political priorities of the EU, notably following the EU mobilisation against irregular migration and related trafficking. The priority is to assist in the rebuilding of internal security forces and institutions to deploy the authority of the states over the whole territories."

The report notes that:

"CSDP contribution to the migration crisis consists of the combination of support to national capacity building with support to the development of an effective regional cooperation between G5 Sahel countries. Different options of pursuing this regional approach will be further developed on the basis of the consultations with the Member States and the countries in the region."

The report also includes information on diplomatic efforts by the EU and Member States, the work of the EU Special Representative for Sahel, financing for "protection and development" and humanitarian aid.

It foresees significant efforts in the future to address "unsustainable demographic growth, radicalisation, violent extremism and trafficking in human beings".

Two detailed annexes provide further information.

The first gives a regional and country-by-country overview of political and diplomatic activity; work on security and the rule of law; development, good governance and internal conflict resolution; and the prevention of extermism and radicalisation.

It also shows foreseen expenditure from the European Development Fund between 2014 and 2020 and projects funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Stability.

The second annex lists projects in the Sahel financed by Member States, showing the project names (and in some cases brief descriptions), the amount of funding provided, the status (planned, ongoing or finalised) and the foreseen period in which projects will take place.

The report was published by the Commission/EEAS on 23 December 2016 and was distributed to national delegations within the Council of the EU on 3 January this year.