EU Trust Fund for Africa: Can it be beneficial for Italy and tackle the migration crisis in the Mediterranean?

European Council, 19-20/10/2017
Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk
Date: 19/10/2017. © European Union, 2017. Source: EC – Audiovisual Service

It was last week when the EU leaders met in Brussels to discuss how to support Italy with managing the refugees’ crisis in the central Mediterranean. The increase of the financial aid in the Trust Fund for Africa is believed to be one of the main ways to deal with this long-lasting issue.

However, this solution was again discussed in the EU and African leaders’ meeting in France two months ago but nothing has been done since then. The president of the European Council mentioned though that tangible results will be shown in a few weeks.

The migration crisis still holds in the Mediterranean as the IOM reported last week that 148.882 migrants and refugees entered Europe in 2017 by sea with more than 75% arriving in Italy and the rest landing in Greece, Cyprus, and Spain.

EU invests in Africa Trust Fund

Donald Tusk mentioned during the summit that the EU plans to help Italy to reduce the migration burden across the Mediterranean. More specifically, the president of the EC said: “We have just concluded our discussion about migration and the need to help Italy manage the Central Mediterranean route. Leaders agreed to offer Prime Minister Gentiloni stronger support for Italy’s work with the Libyan authorities. We have a real chance of closing the Central Mediterranean route. That is why we decided that Member States will provide sufficient finances for the North Africa window of the Trust Fund for Africa, while the Commission ensures that this money is channeled to stem illegal migration”.

The president of the European Commission reassured that the EU trust fund for Africa will be financially reinforced and added that the Commission has invested 2.9 billion euros till now while the EU member states have provided 175 million euros in the fund. More in detail, Jean-Claude Juncker said: “We are reaching our limits to this emergency trust fund for Africa. If we do want to be as present as possible in Africa – mainly in the Northern part of Africa – we have to increase financial means”.

Italy still waits for support

The EU together with the African leaders had met in Paris on August 28 to discuss on the management of the influx of migrants through Libya and across the Mediterranean. During the summit, it was agreed to provide assistance to Chad and Niger to control their borders, financial support to develop the countries of origin of migrants and work towards stability in Libya.

In the meantime Italy has been waiting for assistance from the EU in order to deal with the migrants coming from the Mediterranean route. The Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni mentioned about the lack of help from the EU countries that: “I hope more offers will be forthcoming without the need to reiterate demands. The discussion is ongoing, but if I said it was near a solution, I would be lying”.

Migration crisis persists in the Mediterranean

IOM Rome reported last Thursday that 585 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean on October 18 and will be brought to land in the next few days. IOM estimated that these rescues added to the 110.329 refugees arriving by sea to Italy this year while 2.783 people have died in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean in 2017.

Asylum rules reform

The European Parliament decided not to provide any financial aid to the EU countries that deny receiving asylum–seekers reaching the bloc. This action is showing that the EP clearly wants to decongest the Southern countries which are in bad condition as the current rules imply that the first country is responsible to deal with the asylum request.

The plan of the EU leaders is to meet again in December when they will discuss on how to reform the Dublin rules and finally conclude in the first half of 2018. Paolo Gentiloni spoke with Jean-Claude Juncker on the matter pointing about the need to change the rules in order for the migrants to apply for asylum in the first safe country. Thus, countries like Italy and Greece will be able to revive from the continuous migratory pressures.

All in all, the EU countries should focus more on solidarity apart from the financial aid in order to be able to create the necessary conditions to deal with the migration crisis which continues plaguing the bloc since 2015.

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