Africans, Europeans Release Migration Plan

Africans, Europeans Release Migration Plan

Published: July 11, 2006
Filed at 9:12 p.m. ET

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Delegates from 58 countries promised Tuesday to combine tougher immigration enforcement with more aid for Africans to help stem a rising tide of illegal migration to Europe.

The plan released by African and European delegates at the end of a two-day meeting on immigration includes proposals for short-term work visas, grants to migrants in Europe to start businesses back home and funding for job creation in regions with high emigration.

It proposes international cooperation on enforcement of immigration laws, along with making it easier for legal migrants to Europe to send money home to Africa, stimulating the local economy.

The plan is non-binding, vague on funding and it wasn't clear how much of the plan would ever be enacted — weaknesses that prompted European Union Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner France Frattini to call for a task force to monitor whether countries follow through.

And the plan is conspicuously silent on corruption in Africa.

Belgian Cooperation Minister Armand de Decker said in an interview that Africa's biggest problem is ''bad African governance'' leading to the misuse or theft of aid money. Many measures listed in the action plan — from academic exchanges to simple cash handouts — involve government oversight.

''Good governance must become the obsession of Africans,'' he said.

Decker said European diplomats regularly press African governments to clean up their acts, ''but if we do it in public they get offended.''

EU officials say migrants have been undaunted by the risks of crossing or by tightened border controls in Europe.

Officials cited examples earlier in the meeing, saying more than 10,000 people have arrived in Spain's Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa since the beginning of 2006 — already more than twice as many as in 2005.

In an apparent sign of concern over the problem, some European delegates proposed projects that largely sidestepped African governments.

France, a major destination for migrants, dangled the idea of small loans to encourage Africans to stay home and start businesses.

The migrants' swelling numbers, as well as the high death rate for crossings to Europe, prompted the search for solutions broader than just tough enforcement.

Separately, in Brussels, Belgium, the European Commission proposed a $3.8 billion fund to promote good governance in Africa, as part of efforts to find solutions to global poverty at the upcoming Group of Eight summit of major economic powers.

The European Union's executive office said the new fund for Africa should be used to encourage reform and should be distributed in addition to regular aid to those countries taking steps to improve governance.