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European Council marks an opportunity to change reckless course on migration

19 October 2016

At the European Council of 20 and 21 October, EU Member States will meet to discuss progress under their comprehensive approach to migration. Ahead of this meeting, Saferworld calls on Member States to reverse short-term reactive responses that risk reinforcing the dynamics that cause conflict and demonstrate greater leadership to address the underlying drivers of displacement.

While the links between conflict and displacement are clear, and the EU recognises the importance of addressing the “root causes of irregular and forced displacement”, its approach has largely focused on reinforcing partnerships with third countries in a bid to stem immediate migrant flows. Specifically, the EU is offering development and security cooperation to governments in return for quick action to reduce migration from or through their territories. However, in some cases, such as under the Action Plan for the Horn of Africa, the EU is supporting the same governments that are responsible for creating or failing to deal with the conditions of violent conflict or repression that drive people from their homes. This risks providing international legitimacy, additional resources and a free hand to the very governing elites that are part of the problem and most in need of reform.

Similarly, while livelihoods and resilience programmes are being supported to address the underlying drivers of migration, these can over-simplify and de-politicise the causes of displacement as they often fail to address crucial issues, including poor governance, injustice, inequality and corruption. And worryingly, the Partnership Framework on Migration calls for EU and Member States to use their international aid as a lever to stem migration to Europe, potentially directing it away from the people who need it the most and for whom this assistance is intended.

Rather than supporting governments to further securitise their migration management systems, the EU and its Member States would do well to prioritise diplomatic action and longer-term measures to address violent conflict and confront repression, bad governance and corruption. Recent experience shows that toxic partnerships with elites in such contexts make matters worse in the longer-term, leading to greater instability, economic crisis and ultimately displacement.

Escaping this trap will require leadership at the EU level and political courage at home to make the case for more constructive and sustainable approaches. The people in and beyond Europe deserve no less.

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Photo:  Catherine James/IRIN

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Rather than supporting governments to further securitise their migration management systems, the EU and its Member States would do well to prioritise diplomatic action and longer-term measures to address violent conflict and confront repression, bad governance and corruption.

Saferworld