Last month, president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker proposed a new program that would aim to bolster economic growth in Africa as part of the European Union’s (EU) efforts to reduce irregular migration. Such a measure stands in contrast to others taken in recent years where, for example, Italy worked to stem the flow of migrants—with EU backing—by engaging local intermediaries, who have allegedly paid armed groups to cease smuggling. Avoiding the extreme flows of migrants as experienced in 2015 remains a top concern irrespective of the measures employed, not least to contain the rising tide of populism rooted in anti-migrant sentiment in Europe.
Migration is a natural and defining phenomenon of the globalized world. The challenge of governing migration lies in its inevitability, volume, and heterogeneity. As a portion of the global population, migrants represent around 3 percent, but their absolute number is rising. There were 170 million migrants in 2000; today there are roughly 260 million. Migration levels will certainly grow while hostilities continue in the most conflict-ridden regions of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, the global wealth gap persists, climate change aggravates living conditions in many areas, and the poorer half of the globe becomes more populous.
Legalising migrants can boost economic growth, improve international relations and prevent radicalisation.
Algeria and Morocco have for the past decade been important transit and stopover countries for migrants moving to Europe. Many also stop to seek informal work in Algeria’s $548.3 billion hydrocarbon economy and Morocco’s $257.3 billion diversified economy.
The total absence of European policies to address climate-driven migration from Africa is deeply concerning.
Europe is underestimating the primary cause of migration from sub-Saharan Africa: climate change. Environmental changes have a particularly pronounced impact on migration from Africa for at least four reasons: the continent is highly dependent on natural resources and agriculture, which are the first assets to be undermined by climate change; it has poor infrastructure, such as flood defences; its states are often characterized by weak institutions, which are less able to adapt to climate change; and its high poverty rate undermines the resilience of local populations to climate shocks.
In recent weeks, allegations have surfaced that Italy has been paying armed groups in Libya to cease smuggling migrants into the country. Some estimate that the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean into Italy has reduced by half compared to the same time period last year. At the heart of the issue is a governance vacuum that allows armed groups to control the flow of migrants in and out of Libya, presenting a unique challenge for governments in North and West Africa and EU policymakers.