Europe Politics

Oxfam accuses EU of tying aid money to African migration curbs

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Key Points
  • The EU Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa was established in 2015 to address the root causes of mass migration from some of Africa's poorest and most unstable countries.
  • However, in a report published last week, Oxfam revealed that over 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) of poverty reduction and development funding was being used in EU member states' domestic migration curbing policies.
A group of illegal migrants are processed by Italian officials and given basic health checks by members of the Italian Red Cross as they disembark from an Italian navy boat in the harbour at Messina.
Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images

Oxfam has accused the European Union of using African aid and development funding to strong-arm African countries into limiting migration to the continent.

The EU Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa was established in 2015 to address the root causes of mass migration from some of Africa's poorest and most unstable countries.

However, in a report published last week following extensive analysis of the allocation of funds, the charity confederation revealed that over 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) of poverty reduction and development funding was going to EU member states' domestic migration curbing policies. These included enhanced border controls and repatriation of migrants. The EU did not respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Oxfam EU Migration Policy Advisor Raphael Shilhav said European governments were focusing on bowing to anti-immigration sentiment at home for short-term political wins, at the expense of long-term development strategies.

"The EU needs to stop undermining its own values. Development aid is meant to fight poverty, inequality, and the growing climate crisis and it should not be politicized," Shilhav said in a statement.

Oxfam cautioned that tying development policy to domestic objectives undermines economic development, resilience and human mobility which could help improve the lives of people in Africa.

The report found that just 56 million euros of the EUTF, less than 1.5% of the total fund, was allocated to regular migration schemes.

Migrants hang onto flotation tubes in the sea after jumping from an overloaded wooden boat during a rescue operation 10.5 miles (16 kilometres) off the coast of Libya August 6, 2015.
Darrin Zammit Lupi | Reuters

It suggested that the integration of domestic migration politics into EU international policy had already been counterproductive, with funding for authorities in Libya fueling human trafficking and the arbitrary detention of refugees in inhospitable conditions.

Under the Sophia naval mission, the EU has provided support to the Libyan coast guard to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean, particularly to Italy.

In the countries of the Sahel, the transitional zone between the Sahara and the Sudanian Savannah, aid has been spent on preventing people from relocating and has failed to account for repeated droughts and a destabilizing security situation, Oxfam researchers suggested.

As well as being redirected toward domestic political ends, EUTF development aid is also increasingly being used as leverage to strong-arm African authorities into cooperating with EU migration demands, according to the report.

This pressure, Oxfam alleged, is also hindering the ability for EU diplomats to push African host countries on democracy and human rights issues.

The international agency called on EU institutions and member states to review the implementation of the EUTF, and design new financial instruments to address migration and development, disentangling aid allocation from EU domestic migration policy demands.