EU and African leaders adopt $2B migrant action plan

Senegal's President Macky Sall leaves at the end of the European Union - Africa Summit on Migration at the Mediterranean Conference Center, on November 12, 2015 in La Valletta. (Photo: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE, AFP/Getty Images)



European and African leaders adopted a $2 billion action plan  Thursday after a two-day summit to deal with the problems that drive tens of thousands of migrants to Europe.

The summit in Malta’s capital of Valletta was called after about 800 people died in April when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea after setting off for Europe from Libya.

The plan is aimed at addressing the root causes of migration and intends to fight human smuggling and trafficking and return people who are not entitled to stay in Europe to their home countries.

A “trust fund” with $1.9 billion of European Union money has been launched to help implement the plan, on top of $22 billion of development funding given to African countries by European states every year, European Council President Donald Tusksaid. The EU also wants member states to match the $1.9 billion funding, but few have stepped up so far.

On Thursday, Britain’s government announced $300 million in aid to Africa to help with the root causes of migration, such as political instability and lack of opportunities. It also announced a $3 million contribution to the trust fund.

“We are under no illusions that we can improve the situation overnight,” Tusk said. “But we are committed to giving people alternatives to risking their lives.”

Europe is currently undergoing its worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II, largely driven by the 4-year-old civil war in Syria, while migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere have joined them on their land trek across Europe. Smaller numbers of migrants and refugees are heading from African nations, including Sudan, Somalia andEritrea.

By the end of 2016, the leaders plan to improve job opportunities in those African countries were migrants are leaving, establish regional development programs in parts of Africa and double the number of scholarships for African students and researchers at universities in Europe. They also plan to help enable migrants to return home from Europe voluntarily.

Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou said that $1.9 billion is not enough.

“What we want is not just official development assistance in this form but reform of global governance. There must be more investment in Africa. Official development assistance is good but it’s not sufficient,” he said, according to Reuters.

The news agency said the EU leaders who met in Malta are considering inviting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to a summit in Brussels this month to agree to a deal to stem migration, but options are still being debated. Turkey is the main transit point for Syrian refugees heading to Europe.

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