Author: Andrew Songa*

This working paper outlines the way in which the EU has elevated migration as a key issue within the EU-AU partnership, which resulted in significant financial support for migration-related projects and policies.  It goes on to problematize the focus on cooperation geared towards increased returns and readmissions of irregular migrants and enhancement of border security and management. The financial support also produced normative advancements for migration at the AU level, notably the Migration Policy Framework for Africa and the Plan of Action. The paper puts forward recommendations on how the asymmetrical emphasis on return, readmission and reintegration can be rebalanced and what future EU-AU cooperation should focus on.

The article briefly summarises the four dialogue-led processes which have characterised cooperation on migration and asylum policy between the EU and the AU over the last five years, namely: the Rabat Process; the Khartoum Process; the Support to the Africa-EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue (MMD); and the Joint Valletta Action Plan.

It argues that EU concerns about the increased number of people arriving from Libya and the Sahel region have elevated migration as a key issue within the EU-AU partnership, which in turn resulted in significant amounts of funding being invested in it.

A significant part of projects and initiatives supported by the EU are geared towards cooperation on increased returns and readmissions of irregular migrants to countries of origin and transit while also requiring those countries to enhance efforts on border security and management. The paper notes that this has contributed to securitising European development assistance, which has also contributed to the erosion of protection for migrants along migratory routes.

The paper points to the misalignment between the short-term or immediate imperatives of the EU and the long-term goals of the AU, with little progress being made regarding opening pathways for legal migration when compared to the aspects that emphasise border security and the return of migrants to countries of origin. It also illustrates the positive developments regarding normative advancement for migration at the AU level that EU support has contributed to, such as the development of the Migration Policy Framework for Africa and Plan of Action (2018-2030) (MPFA) and the adoption of the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community relating to Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment (PFMP).

The paper concludes by suggesting that the next phase of the EU-Africa Strategy should consolidate the gains made over the last five years but in a manner that dispels the asymmetrical emphasis on return, readmission and reintegration. It argues that the MPFA and the AU’s theme for 2020, which is “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”, provide opportunities for cooperation on preventing armed conflict and its contribution to forced migration, one of the major challenges in Africa.

In addition, the paper points to the need to increase accountability for migration policies, project and initiatives by anchoring them in support to the accountability organs of the African Human Rights System as well as a consistent encouragement to ratify and implement the relevant AU framework and instruments. Accelerating the implementation of projects and initiatives that advance the protection of migrants and demonstrate the development benefits of migration as well as additional support for themes that relate to the root causes of forced displacement, such as transitional justice, electoral governance, illicit financial flow are also key.


* Andrew Songa is a lawyer and human rights advocate with over 9 years of experience in undertaking legal research; policy formulation and analysis; advocacy at the domestic and international levels; and civic education.  He currently serves as a Delegate at the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) with a focus on Advocacy towards the African Union (AU).  Mr. Songa sits as a member of the Advisory Panel for the Study of Transitional Justice in Africa by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and was also a member of the Reference Group that assisted the African Commission to draft a General Comment on the Right to Redress for Victims of Torture and Other Ill Treatment. He has also previously served on the advisory panel of the Open Society Justice Initiative’s Study on Strategic Litigation Impacts. Mr. Songa is a graduate of the Geneva Academy’s Master of Advanced Studies in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.