The European Union’s efforts to seal new pacts with African states to reduce irregular Mediterranean immigration face risks and challenges, as evidenced by Tunisia’s recent rejection of 60 million euros in EU aid.
The EU is keen to strike deals with North African countries to curb unauthorised arrivals. Still, these efforts are hampered by security risks, high costs, a lack of trust, and African countries’ incapacity or unwillingness to tighten their borders or asylum systems.
Some concerns making the EU dependent on leaders criticised for abuse of human rights and democratic standards could backfire and that other countries will be reluctant to sign up to deals that require them to contain people on their soil.
The EU has already spent more than 9 billion euros on a deal with Turkey to curb immigration from there, which has significantly cut arrivals in Greece and elsewhere in the bloc. However, it has also contributed to a swelling of Turkey’s refugee population, and the EU is now looking to other countries to help shoulder the burden.
Tunisia, facing an IMF bailout, was offered 1 billion euros under a deal rushed through by the EU in July. However, President Kais Saied has baulked at the terms and returned part of the first tranche of aid.
Saied has said that Tunisia refuses to be a “migration hotspot” or a “country of destination,” there is concern that the EU is putting too much pressure on developing countries to do its dirty work.
The EU has recorded 250,000 irregular arrivals this year, up from 160,000 for all of 2022, and the bloc is keen to restrict unauthorised immigration from the Middle East and Africa. However, it is clear that this will not be easy and that the EU will need to find more sustainable solutions to the migration crisis.
How it impacts Nigeria
Nigeria is not directly involved in the EU’s new pacts with African states to reduce irregular Mediterranean immigration. However, the outcome of these negotiations could have several indirect implications for Nigeria.
First, if the EU successfully strikes deals with North African countries to curb immigration, this could decrease the number of migrants passing through Nigeria en route to Europe.
This could positively impact Nigeria’s security situation, as it would reduce the number of people at risk of exploitation by smugglers and traffickers.
If the EU’s pacts with African states lead to increased investment in these countries, this could benefit Nigeria indirectly. For example, if the EU invests in infrastructure development in North Africa, this could make it easier for Nigerian businesses to trade with these countries.
However, some potential risks are also associated with the EU’s new pacts with African states. One concern is that these deals could lead to externalising the EU’s borders, with African countries being forced to take on a greater responsibility for controlling migration. This could put a strain on Nigeria’s resources and could lead to human rights abuses.
Another concern is that the EU’s pacts could lead to increased securitization of migration, with a focus on border control and enforcement rather than on developing sustainable solutions to the root causes of migration. This could make it more difficult for Nigerian migrants to access regular European pathways and force them to resort to irregular migration routes