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Photo shows a joint press conference held at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on Aug. 28, 2017. The leaders of France, Germany, Spain and Italy on Monday vowed to strengthen support for African countries in an effort to stem illegal migration. The leaders issued a joint statement Monday evening following a meeting in Paris on migration, in which they were joined by their counterparts of Niger and Chad, along with head of Libya's United Nations (UN)-backed government and foreign policy chief of the European Union (EU) / © picture alliance

EU, Africa to step up co-operation on irregular migration

Europe and the Africa intend to step up co-operation in the fight against criminal human traffickers – Europe is to provide more support for the African countries. That is the outcome of a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris with leaders of other European and African states.

“We must fight illegal migration and find humanitarian responses,” declared Chancellor Merkel at the meeting in Paris. President Macron also stressed, “Solidarity, humanity and efficiency are our guiding principles.” The French President hosted a meeting attended by the Chancellor and representatives of other European and African countries to discuss cooperation with Africa on refugee-related issues.

The meeting in the Elysée Palace was attended by the French President Emmanuel Macron, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. The African side was represented by the President of the Republic of Chad, Idriss Déby, the President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, and Fayez al-Sarraj, Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya.

Stronger co-operation in the fight against human traffickers

The Chancellor firstly pointed out that co-operation between Italy and Libya to fight traffickers is working well. The number of migrants arriving in Italy has dropped significantly over the last few months.

While in June, 23,500 people arrived in Italy, and 530 lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean, numbers had dropped to 11,500 arriving in July, with the loss of 210 lives. Up to August 23 this year, a total of 3,082 people had arrived in Italy, having crossed the Mediterranean from Libya, and 23 migrants died in the attempt. There is “a clear correlation between the number of people setting off and the number of people losing their lives on the way,” said Angela Merkel. “And that means that we also have a humanitarian responsibility to regulate these illegal channels.”

As the Chancellor explained, there is a fundamental readiness to resettle refugees from Libya in Europe. UNHCR must decide who is in such a desperate situation. “But this will only be possible if we can clearly distinguish between people going to Libya for purely economic reasons, in order to travel on from there to Europe.” The option of taking in refugees in this way is also tied to the need to end illegal migration. “Otherwise we would be sending the wrong signal.” People coming for purely economic reasons must return to their home countries, underscored Angela Merkel.

More support for transit countries

At the same time, transit countries like Niger and Chad need more support. “If we want to stop human traffickers in Agadez, it will only be possible with development assistance,” said the Chancellor. Countries affected by inner-African migration also need our help. And finally, we must cooperate with the countries of origin of migrants.

In the view of the French President, refugees from Africa should be able to begin the asylum process for the EU in Chad and Niger. The project is to be headed by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

How do Germany and the EU intend to proceed?

In the run-up to the meeting the Chancellor made it clear in her video podcast that Germany and the EU do not want to cooperate only with Libya, Chad and Niger, i.e. with transit states. They also intend to work with the countries of origin of migrants. Angela Merkel said that the aim must be to fight the root causes of displacement, stem illegal migration and better manage migration.

The Chancellor announced that the EU member states and the European Commission have accepted the responsibility to enter into special migration compacts with Niger, Chad and Senegal. At the same time “humane and humanitarian ways must be found to enable people to stay in Libya such that they are not in danger”. They can, however, also be encouraged to return to their home countries.

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