How does the EU cooperate with Africa on migration?

(European Commission – Fact Sheet)

On the basis of its Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) – the overarching framework of the EU external migration and asylum policy – the EU is engaged in a broad dialogue with countries on the African continent on migration and mobility at bilateral, regional and continental levels:

1/ Continental level, with the African Union (AU). A key political declaration on migration and mobility was endorsed by the Heads of State and Government at the EU-Africa Summit in April 2014. It reiterated the parties’ shared commitment to, amongst others, fight irregular migration and to address all its relevant aspects, including prevention, strengthened migration and border management, return and readmission, as well as addressing the root causes of irregular migration. The above mentioned declaration is underpinned by an Action Plan (2014-17), and the necessary financial resources.Map - Africa to EU - western, eastern migratory routes

2/ Regional level, with policy dialogues with countries along the western migratory route (Rabat Process) and the eastern migratory route (Khartoum Process). These dialogues are underpinned by concrete action plans and financial resources. The EU has also launched the new Regional Development and Protection Programmes (RDPPs) in North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

3/ Bilateral level, with a wide range of programme and project support, that aim to contribute to institutional and legislative reforms and capacity building in partner countries, as well as specific political agreements concluded with Morocco, Tunisia, Cape Verde and Nigeria, and another to be signed in the margins of the Valletta Summit with Ethiopia. These political agreements are supported by concrete EU funded actions.

4/ In addition, cooperation with African countries takes place within the Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Partnership Agreement signed in Cotonou in June 2000. In June 2012 the ACP-EU Council endorsed three sets of recommendations on (a) visas, (b) remittances and (c) readmission. The ACP-EU Council of Ministers in May 2015 endorsed also recommendations on stepping up the fight against trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants.

1. Continental level

What is the EU-Africa Migration and Mobility Dialogue?

The Africa-EU Migration, Mobility and Employment (MME) Partnership was launched during the Africa-EU Summit in December 2007, where the Joint EU-Africa Strategy and the First Action Plan (2008-2010) were adopted. The EU-Africa Summit in 2014 gave new impetus to the cooperation on migration: In addition to the declaration on migration and mobility, an action plan 2014-2017 was also adopted, focusing on the following priorities:

  • Fighting trafficking in human beings

  • Remittances

  • Diaspora

  • Mobility and labour migration (including intra-African mobility)

  • International protection (including internally displaced persons)

  • Irregular migration

2. Regional level

What is the Rabat Process?

The Rabat Process, launched at the first Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development in July 2006, brings together governments of 55 European and African countries from North, West and Central Africa, together with the European Commission and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The objective is to enhance dialogue and cooperation on migration (legal migration and mobility; prevention of irregular migration and measures to counteract it; migration and development; international protection), as well as to identify common priorities in order to develop operational and practical cooperation.

The Rabat Process is led by a Steering Committee comprised of five EU Member States (Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain), five partner countries (Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Morocco, and Senegal) as well as the European Commission and ECOWAS.

The Rabat Process has established a solid and fruitful dialogue between the EU and the partner countries, and has fostered enhanced cooperation through the implementation of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and multilateral initiatives. The Seahorse Atlantic Network is an example of a concrete cooperation at regional level between Spain, Portugal, Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Morocco, Gambia and Guinea Bissau. It enables the information exchange between authorities in order to prevent irregular migration and cross-border crime. Another example of concrete action comes from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), from which the EU is funding a €26 million project to support the free movement of persons and migration in West Africa. The project is being implemented in joint management with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with the overall objective of supporting the effective implementation of the ECOWAS Free Movement of Persons Protocols and ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration. 

The fourth Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development took place in November 2014. It adopted the Rome Declaration and Programme for 2015-17, which identified two thematic priority areas for future action: 1) strengthening the link between migration and development, and 2) the prevention and fight against irregular migration and related crimes. It also introduced international protection as one of the four pillars for cooperation aligning them with the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM).

What is the Khartoum Process?

The Khartoum Process (EU Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative) formally launched a year ago, at a ministerial conference in November 2014 in Rome, is a regional dialogue on migration between EU Member States and 9 African countries from the Horn of Africa and transit countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Egypt and Tunisia), as well as the European Commission, the African Union Commission and the European External Action Service. The objective is to establish a long-standing dialogue on migration and mobility aimed at enhancing the current cooperation, including through the identification and implementation of concrete projects. As stated in the Ministerial Declaration of 28 November 2014, the dialogue will initially focus on addressing trafficking in human beings as well as smuggling of migrants.

The Khartoum Process is led by a Steering Committee comprised of five EU Member States (Italy, France, Germany, UK, Malta), five partner countries (Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan) as well as the European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the African Union Commission on the African side. A first identification of needs and priorities took place at the first Steering Committee meeting in Sharm el Sheikh in April 2015. 

The Khartoum Process will be directly supported with € 17.5 million under the Pan-African Programme for the “Support to Africa-EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue” programme. Additional initiatives are planned to implement actions in line with the Ministerial declaration of November 2014, including a project on Addressing Mixed Migration Flows in East Africa (€5 million under the Development Cooperation Instrument- Global Public Goods and Challenges thematic programme (DCI-GPGC), to be implemented by Expertise France) and a project on support to EU law enforcement cooperation along the Horn of Africa Migration Route (€0.75 million under the Internal Security Fund for police cooperation). Under the forthcoming Regional Indicative Programme for East Africa, South Africa and Indian Ocean region of the 11th European Development Fund, a cross-regional envelope of €25 million has also been earmarked for migration in this region, with a particular focus on the Khartoum process, including the need to address international protection needs.

All members of the Khartoum Process will be meeting again at the end of November in London, notably with a view to discuss implementation of the Valletta Action Plan in the Horn of Africa. Participants are expected to endorse concrete projects to combat trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants in the region.  

What is the Sahel Regional Action Plan?

On 20 April 2015, the Council adopted the Sahel Regional Action Plan 2015-2020 which provides the overall framework for the implementation of the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, as adopted and revised in its Conclusions on 21 March 2011 and 17 March 2014, respectively. This action plan was endorsed by all five Sahel countries in their meeting with High Representative/Vice-President (HRVP) Mogherini on 17 June 2015.

The Action Plan provides a solid basis for reinforcing the EU’s focus around four domains that are highly relevant to the stabilisation of the region, namely prevention and countering radicalisation; creation of appropriate conditions for youth; migration, mobility and border management; the fight against illicit trafficking; and transnational organised crime.

What is the EU Horn of Africa Regional Action Plan?

On 26 October 2015, the Council adopted the EU Horn of Africa Regional Action Plan which seeks to implement the existing EU Strategic Framework for the Horn of Africa from 2011, taking into account new challenges which have become more pronounced and critical over the last few years, i.e. the broader geopolitical framework, the flows of mixed migration and violent radicalisation. Under the Action Plan, EU interventions aim to resolve and prevent conflict, foster lasting security, stability, development and good governance based on the democratic principles of inclusion, rule of law and respect for human rights. 

Migration and Mobility

People move to escape poverty and conflict, to seek protection from persecution or serious harm, or to build a better life. For individuals, migration can be one of the most powerful and immediate strategies for poverty reduction. In the absence of employment opportunities, many young people seek better opportunities by migrating. The Sahel and Horn of Africa Regional Action Plan will focus on this link between migration and development. In addition, the EU will focus on preventing and fighting against irregular migration, smuggling and trafficking in human beings; promoting international protection and organising mobility and legal migration.

The situation in Niger, as a major transit country, will require strengthened efforts, notably to reinforce and accompany the actions already launched by the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission EUCAP Sahel Niger.


Economic growth is necessary to create employment and to significantly reduce widespread poverty and income inequalities that continue to prevail across the Sahel. More effort is needed to create job opportunities throughout all sectors, in particular for youth.

The EU will provide assistance relevant for youth, including education and training as well as job creation, and ensure equal opportunities for boys and girls. An example of such assistance is the empowerment of mainstream youth through identification of indicators to monitor and to promote education and youth employment so as to offer alternatives to illegal activities/extremist actions.

Further analysis on how to support youth as agents for positive change will also be provided. The EU will build youth resilience, e.g. by further promoting economic and employment opportunities (through support to SMEs and key value chains, the recruitment of local labour, etc.) and the reduction of inequalities in EU and Member States programmes, wherever possible.

A special reflection could also be launched on the demography challenge in order to know how to better address it. Demography should become progressively and more systematically part of the political dialogue with beneficiary countries. More broadly, EU and Member States’ instruments will be mobilised to improve social cohesion and inclusive economic growth, including regional integration, in particular through the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement Development Programme (EPADP).

EU support to refugees in the regions closest to the conflicts – the case of the Regional Development and Protection Programmes (RDPPs)

The aim of the Regional Development Protection Programmes (RDPPs) is to assist third countries hosting large numbers of refugees to address protection and developmental needs of the refugees and asylum seekers, the needs of the refugee hosting communities, and support the capacity building needs of the authorities in the field of refugee protection. They will also ensure a more coordinated approach between the protection and development oriented actions.

The RDPP North Africa consortium is led by Italy whereas the RDPP Horn of Africa consortium is led by the Netherlands. The RDPPs will be supported by different EU funds and by national contributions.

The RDPPs can include actions such as: support to legislative and policy framework, building up an administrative structure, training for professionals dealing with refugee issues, support to refugee status determination, improvement of reception conditions, support to vulnerable groups of migrants and refugees, awareness raising on the perils of irregular migration, providing possibilities for local integration and self-reliance, supporting refugees and refugee hosting communities with improved livelihood and education opportunities, providing employment generation schemes and vocational training, and fostering trust and social cohesion between the refugees and refugee hosting communities.

The RDPPs in North Africa and the Horn of Africa build on the lessons learned from the previous Regional Protection Programmes and the RDPP for the Middle East implemented by a consortium led by Denmark.

Border management, illicit trafficking, and transnational organised crime

The EU currently supports a number of activities to fight illicit trafficking (partnership with UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)) in border zones, but also in the area of security and development.

Actions on border management, migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and other forms of trafficking, and transnational organised crime, in particular focusing on enhanced inter-agency and cross-border cooperation and information sharing will be pursued. The European Agenda on Migration and the Agenda on Security also outlined the fight against migrant smuggling as one of the Commission priorities. Concrete measures have been set out in the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling adopted in May, which puts forward strong proposals for countering and preventing the operations of migrant smugglers.

The EU will consider the implementation of integrated border management projects, in the Sahel region as well as around Lake Chad, including actions in the fields of both development and security. The EU is also encouraging Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) civilian missions already deployed in the Sahel region, such as the missions EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger within their operational design and strength, to support local efforts aimed at developing local border management capacities and to contribute actively to the international coordination on the ground.

Cooperation on return and readmission with countries of origin and transit

The EU is committed to engage with all operational actors to deal with the current complex challenges of migration and human mobility, including those induced by mixed movements involving migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. The effective return and readmission of those who are not in need of protection represents a key priority to maintaining credibility and proper functioning of our asylum and migration systems, in full respect of the fundamental rights of migrants and the principle of non-refoulement.

Against this background, the Commission has proposed on 9 September an ambitious EU Action Plan on return, which notably sets out a strategy for scaling up cooperation with third countries on return and readmission agreements.

While encouraging and supporting voluntary returns to home countries remains the preferred option wherever possible, the EU is mobilising all relevant policies including foreign policy, development assistance and trade to incentivise our partners to cooperate on readmission, on the basis of a more for more principle. To this end, the EU’s cooperation with third countries will also focus on strengthening the capacity to respond in a timely manner to readmission requests and on facilitating and speeding up the identification of own nationals.

In parallel, the EU will invest in supporting the sustainable reintegration of returnees and enhance the capacity of their home countries to readmit and reintegrate them.

3. Bilateral cooperation

What about bilateral cooperation?

Bilateral dialogues on migration and mobility between the EU and third countries can take different forms. The Mobility Partnerships(MP) as well as the Common Agendas on Migration and Mobility (CAMM) provide important frameworks for policy dialogue and operational cooperation on asylum and migration issues. They both offer a political framework for comprehensive, enhanced and tailor-made dialogue and cooperation with partner countries but have two particular differences: (1) the proposal to negotiate a MP should be presented once a certain level of progress has been achieved in the migration and mobility dialogues. Establishing a MP would include the negotiation of visa facilitation and readmission agreements, whereas a CAMM would not, and (2) a MP is mainly used vis-à-vis neighbourhood countries, whereas a CAMM should mainly be used for other third countries. So far, four such agreements have been signed with partner countries on the African continent: Cape Verde, Morocco and Tunisia (Mobility Partnerships) and Nigeria(Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility) [1]. A Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility will also be signed with Ethiopia in Valletta in the margins of the Migration Summit. Financial resources have been allocated to support the implementation of these agreements.

The EU is committed to start dialogues with other countries in the region in accordance with the political mandate given by the European Council. Libya remains a priority country for such a dialogue as soon as circumstances allow.

Which types of activities are covered under a Mobility Partnership?

Typical actions/activities covered in a Mobility Partnership are:

Legal migration and mobility

  • promotion of a better framework for legal migration and mobility, including through circular and temporary migration schemes as well as better information and protection of migrants, including pre-departure training;

  • informing potential migrants on opportunities for legal migration and on requirements for legal stay, as well as on the dangers of undocumented migration and illegal work;

  • institutional and administrative capacity-building of partner countries’ authorities, through improvement of the regulatory framework, technical assistance, training, exchange of experts and best practices, etc.

Fight against irregular migration and trafficking in human beings; border management

  • improving the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings, notably through capacity-building (enhanced financial and technical assistance to support the development of national and regional strategies against migrant smuggling), joint operational measures (including risk analysis and the exchange of information and best practices) and establishing operational interoperability between the relevant border agencies of EU, Member States and the partner countries;

  • development of effective mechanisms and concrete initiatives for preventing and combating irregular migration and trafficking in human beings, including through actions raising public awareness;

  • improving border surveillance, border management capacities and cross-border cooperation

Migration and development

  • support for voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of returning migrants, including through circular migration schemes, informing migrants abroad of the labour market situation in their home countries and their return possibilities, training of returning migrant workers and promotion of transfer of social security benefits, and stimulating entrepreneurship;

  • promotion of legal and concrete measures reducing the cost of remittances, and encouraging their productive investment;

  • promoting the role of (and cooperation with) diasporas.

Asylum and international protection

  • support to the development of a legal and institutional framework on asylum in line with international standards;

  • capacity-building of partner countries’ authorities to develop and implement an asylum policy and provide international protection as well as to improve the reception facilities, such as the reception of asylum seekers and submission of asylum requests through the development of specific simplified procedures, in particular for those with special needs;

  • promoting the cooperation between the national authorities competent for asylum procedures in third countries and their peers in the EU Member States.

What about cooperation with Libya?

The ongoing Libyan conflict has created a lawlessness environment that offers smugglers the possibility to operate with impunity. Stabilising Libya constitutes a crucial step in preventing further loss of life off the Libyan shores. The EU strongly supports the work of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya and the UN led dialogue process. The EU strongly encourages the Libyan parties to agree to a Government of National Accord. The EU is ready to offer support to that future government, should it request it, in a whole array of areas including on migration issues so as to help bring an end to the human suffering of migrants. In the meantime, the EU continues to address the humanitarian consequences of the crisis and its impact on migrants and other vulnerable groups.

There has been a significant investment in migration projects in Libya in recent years (€42.7 million committed between 2011 and 2014). Each EU funded programme entails different areas of interventions. Support to migration management focuses on three sub-sectors: human rights based migration management; countering irregular migration; and assistance to migrants in need of international protection.

After the deterioration of the security situation last year and in order to respond to the needs of people fleeing fighting areas in Libya, EU migration support has been refocused to guarantee emergency care and support for stranded migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people in Libya and in the neighbouring countries. Due to the very volatile political context, the institutional support programmes are on hold with the exception of training activities on Rescue at Sea operations targeting the Libyan Coastal Gard (SeaHorse Programme, €4.5 million).

The EU funded programme START (€9.9 million), implemented by IOM (International Organization for Migration), has supported the evacuation and repatriation of 1200 stranded migrants out of Libya (around 4,000 additional cases have been identified by IOM) and 417 migrants who were rescued at sea in Tunisian waters, and it has provided 7429 internally displaced families and 10,506 migrants across Libya with direct assistance (provision of non-food items, hygiene kits and health services).Most of these activities are now continued under the SaharaMed project, implemented by the Italian Ministry of Interior in collaboration with IOM (€8,3 million). Two new programmes have been signed and will be implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross in coordination with the Libyan Red Crescent. These are expected to start delivering assistance to migrants (€6.25 million) and to Internally Displaced People and groups at risk (€2.9 million) in the near future.

Background information

EU external migration policy

The Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) is, since 2005, the overarching framework of the EU’s external migration and asylum policy. The framework defines how the EU conducts its policy dialogues and operational cooperation with third countries, based on clearly defined priorities which reflect the strategic objectives of the EU, and embedded in the EU’s overall foreign policy framework, including development cooperation. Important also to underline that the GAMM aims to develop mutually beneficial partnerships in line with both the interests of the EU and of partner countries (which is needed to ensure effective management of migration flows).

The GAMM is focused on four thematic priorities: (1) better organising legal migration and fostering well-managed mobility; (2) preventing and combating irregular migration and eradicating trafficking of human beings; (3) maximising the development impact of migration and mobility; (4) promoting international protection and enhancing the external dimension of asylum. The protection of human rights is a cross-cutting priority.

The GAMM is implemented through several political instruments (regional and bilateral policy dialogues and action plans), legal instruments (visa facilitation and readmission agreements), operational support and capacity-building (including via EU agencies, e.g.FRONTEX, EASO and ETF, and technical assistance facilities such as MIEUX and TAIEX) as well as the wide range of programme and project support that is made available to third country administrations and other stakeholders, such as civil society, migrant associations and international organisations.

The GAMM implementation is a common and shared responsibility of the Commission, EEAS (including EU Delegations) and Member States, in accordance with their respective competences as set out in the Treaties.

EU support on migration and development

The overall objective of development cooperation related to migration is to maximise the positive impact of migration on the development of partner countries. Development cooperation can help partner countries improve their migration governance and in this way tap into the development potential of migration. Also, by addressing political, economic and social instability, development cooperation in a number of sectors contribute to address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement, helping to ensure that migration takes place in an orderly, safe and regular manner and is a choice rather than a necessity.

The Commission is a leading donor when it comes to migration and development: over €1 billion has been spent on more than 400 migration related projects between 2004 and 2014.

For 2014-20, migration features prominently under the Commission’s funding instruments. €344 million are dedicated to migration under the Global Public Goods & Challenges programme. Migration also features prominently in geographical programmes (Pan-African Partnership instrument, regional envelope for Southern Neighbourhood, West Africa and Central Africa cross-regional envelope for Eastern & Southern Africa), as well as in some national programmes in Morocco, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Niger.

In his State of the Union speech in September, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced the Commission’s proposal to establish an “Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa” with an allocation of €1.8 billion from several EU financial instruments, to be topped up by EU Member States and other donors. The EU Trust Fund will complement the existing EU and its Member States’ development aid to Africa amounting to over €20 billion every year and which aims to support inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

The European Neighbourhood Policy under revision

In March 2015, an extensive consultation process on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was launched. The European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will adopt a Communication shortly on the future direction of the ENP. As set out in the Joint Consultation Paper on the ENP Review, migration and mobility is a priority of co-operation for the EU and its partners. The Review will outline proposals on how to further enhance mobility, especially for education, scientific, cultural, training and professional purpose; how to support work with refugees and IDP, and how to tackle common challenges, such as people smuggling and irregular migration.

Examples of EU-funded projects

Migration EU Expertise (MIEUX): providing short-term expertise to partner countries to enhance migration governance:€8 million in the framework of Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI)-Global Public Goods and Challenges (GPGC) programme contributing to the improvement of migration governance at national and regional levels by strengthening the capacities of public authorities to better manage migration and mobility in all its dimensions through the provision of rapid, short-term and small-scale peer-to-peer expertise assistance.

Global action to prevent and address trafficking in human beings and the smuggling of migrants: €10 million within the DCI-GPGC programme contributing to prevent and address trafficking in human beings and the smuggling of migrants by assisting countries in developing and implementing counter-trafficking and smuggling responses and capacities.

Support to Africa – EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue: €17.5 million in the framework of the DCI-Pan-African Programme to improve the governance of migration and mobility within Africa and between Africa and the EU, and enhance the role of African diaspora as development actors.

Supporting the third phase of the Rabat process: the Dakar Strategy: €2 million in the framework of the DCI-Migration and Asylum programme to support the implementation of concrete actions agreed under the process

Regional Protection Programme Horn of Africa: Strengthening protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers, mainly displaced Somalis: €5 million under the DCI-Migration and Asylum programme to protect and assist Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa, notably in Kenya and Djibouti, in the context of increased displacement in the region.

For more information: European Commission 


Content gathered and compiled from online and offline media by Hornaffairs staff based on relevance and interest to the Horn of Africa.

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