EU, IOM launch joint initiative for migrant protection, reintegration in Africa

International Organisation for Migration teams up with European Union to improve data collection whilst launching awareness campaigns amongst asylum-seekers on the dangers of dealing with human traffickers

The European Union has launched an initiative to support African countries in responding to the urgent protection needs of asylum-seekers along the central Mediterranean migration routes and in strengthening migration governance.

In collaboration with the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the governments of Germany and Italy, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the new "EU Trust Fund for Africa and IOM initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration of Returnees along the Central Mediterranean migration routes", will cover the Sahel and Lake Chad region and neighbouring countries, including Libya.

According to a statement by the European Commission, it is estimated that, through the initiative, 200,000 asylum-seekers and some 2,000 communities will have access to accurate information on migration that can support informed choices, mitigate the risks associated with irregular migration, raise awareness of asylum-seekers’ rights and responsibilities within host communities, as well as counter negative narratives of migration representing a "burden" or a "danger" to hosting countries.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that the main priority was to prevent people from taking extremely dangerous refugee routes and to provide protection and aid for those in flight.

“With this initiative we support both countries of origin and transit states, especially in Western Africa and in the Sahel region, in creating credible perspectives for refugees to remain in their countries or to voluntarily return,” he said. “Through targeted communication, also in the transit countries, we warn people about the dangers lurking on migration routes or networks of traffickers, and we shed light on rumours or misconceptions about the countries of destination. Concerning Germany, we have started this process with a campaign last year addressing rumours about our country.”

Another aim of the initiative is the improvement of data on migration flows, routes and trends as well as migrants needs and vulnerabilities. The Commission said that data collection tools and migration flow monitoring, jointly implemented with governments, will support governments to develop informed and responsive policy and programmatic responses to migration challenges and opportunities.

"Italy is strongly engaged to embed its action into European strategies which can address the root causes of massive flows,” Italian minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation Angelino Alfano said.

“The EU Emergency Trust Fund is a fundamental tool to cope with the sense of urgency of this challenge, in the spirit of genuine partnership with the African Countries enshrined in the Valletta Declaration and in the EU Partnership Framework,” he continued, adding that in this context, stepping up cooperation with IOM was key to support partner countries to implement measures aimed at managing the flows, preventing irregular migration and trafficking, and supporting the voluntary return and reintegration of migrants in their home communities.

Other focuses of the initiative include increasing protection and assistance in basic needs for vulnerable and stranded asylum-seekers, facilitating voluntary return of an indicative 24,000 asylum-seekers from countries of transit or destination in Africa, achieving sustainable reintegration through counselling and reintegration support in their countries of origin, and enhancing government and stakeholder policies and responses by contributing to the consolidation of legislation, policy or procedures and reinforcing the response of local stakeholders to enhance the appropriation, sustainability and coordination of the actions.

According to the Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini, the EU’s primary goal is to save lives at sea, to protect the most vulnerable, to provide possible alternatives to migration and ultimately to improving people's lives. “Our work with IOM helps our partners to better manage migration flows, to offer support to migrants in strained circumstances and provide reintegration opportunities to returning migrants. These are the commitments we took one year ago in the Valletta Summit, and then with the Partnership Framework on Migration, and the first results are coming. We will continue to deliver," she said.

Through the initiative, the EU and IOM will work with local, national and international stakeholders to implement projects in 14 countries with a total indicative budget of €100 million.