This week, the leaders of Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Nigeria, Chad and Libya met in Paris in an effort to find a solution to the massive influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East. The current crisis is threatening to rip the European Union apart due to the sheer number of arrivals and a growing feeling of discontent among certain countries such as Greece and Italy.
One of the main goals was to reform the Dublin Convention which states that refugees must apply for asylum in the country of their arrival. The objective here is to relieve the pressure on Italy and Greece who are having to face a huge number of newcomers due to their geographical proximity with Africa and the Middle East.
One of President Macron’s ideas was to create hot-spots in Libya, Chad and Nigeria. Those meeting the requirements would be granted asylum and could travel to Europe via official routes rather than be exploited by smugglers. The selection procedure would be under the supervision of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The future of those whose asylum applications would have been refused remains unclear. Would they simply go back to where they came from?
The plan to build these hot-spots sparked outrage amongst the African delegation. Hissein Brahim Taha, the minister of foreign affairs of Chad, declared that he is against this project which risks encouraging thousands to come to Chad. A high-ranking Nigerian official found the project “absurd and dangerous”.
The idea of creating hot-spots in Libya was eventually abandoned by the European leaders. The Aujourd’hui au Faso newspaper from Burkina Faso stated that to have the pretence of installing these hot-spots in Libya is either “a physical punishment or a political hypocrisy”. Instead of hot-spots, the heads of state agreed to concentrate their efforts on creating “identification centres” in Chad and Nigeria, but what these centers would do still remains unclear.
The heads of state also addressed the need to tackle smugglers. According to Le Djely newspaper, the European leaders, especially France, are attacking the wrong problem by concentrating on smugglers.
After the summit, Italy signaled its relief that fellow European nations were finally adressing the problem. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera welcomed the much needed solidarity but also explained that “those are only words pronounced by a minority of European leaders, not the whole of Europe”.
Although quite inconclusive, this summit has at least shown the disconnect between European leaders and their citizens. On Twitter, French President Macron stressed that he will be inflexible on the right of asylum saying that “Those in danger must be welcomed”. Whereas a recent study shows that 65% of French citizens think there are too many migrants in their country.
Idriss Déby Itno, the President of Chad, stated that “Poverty, unemployment and bad education” are pushing young migrants to leave for Europe. Is building a modern and prosperous Africa the only solution to stop the current migrant crisis? One thing is certain; there is no option that can satisfy both the Europeans and the Africans.