Updated | EU scraps plans to deport migrants through new travel documents

Valletta Summit action plan reveals that EU proposal to grant travel documents to failed asylum seekers as a means of deporting them back to Africa has fallen through

EU plans to deport failed African asylum seekers by providing them with makeshift passports fell through as the Valletta Summit drew to a close. The proposal, which was on the EU Council’s agenda for the two-day summit, would have seen African countries recognize the documents’ legitimacy, therefore allowing the EU to deport thousands of failed asylum seekers who have destroyed or lost their identification documents.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told the press at the end of the summit talks on Wednesday that there was a lack of consensus over the document proposal, and indeed it did not find its way into an action plan released at the end of the summit.

However, the action plan states that African countries who cooperate closely with the EU on identifying and providing travel documentation to failed asylum seekers will be rewarded through support for the reintegration of its deported migrants, visa facilitation, and tailor-made packages of support “on other policy areas”.

Also, 10 African countries have agreed to send immigration officials to Europe on a voluntary basis in order to help verify the nationalities of failed asylum seekers, and then EU will explore pilot migrant return projects with African countries.

Moreover, the EU agreed to launch projects in Africa by the end of 2016 aimed at reintegrating deported migrants into the community and labour market.

In a political declaration, the European and African leaders pledged to step up the fight against migrant trafficking “through effective border management, enhanced cooperation and the implementation of the relevant legal and institutional frameworks”. Yet the plan made no mention of action in Libya, a key country of operation for migrant smugglers.

A joint investigation team against smugglers will also be set up in Niger as a pilot project to be potentially replicated in other countries at their request. European and African countries alike will launch information campaigns through their public broadcasting services aimed at raising awareness to the general public and potential migrants alike of the dangers of human trafficking.

Moreover, the EU promised to launch projects in Africa to enhance the professional skills and employability of African youth, sticking to the declaration’s “paramount objective to rekindle hope for the African youth”.

Separate projects will link relief, rehabilitation and development in unstable African countries, and a Regional Development and Protection Programme for the Horn of Africa and North Africa will be launched by mid-2016.

Elsewhere, the EU has agreed to double the number of scholarships for students and academic staff through the Erasmus+ programme in 2016, when compared to 2014. It will also launch pilot projects that will pool offers by EU member states to selected African countries for legal migration opportunities related to work, study, research and training.