The number of tragic deaths at sea has significantly decreased over the summer months, alongside a substantial reduction in the number of migrants crossing the Central Mediterranean. Jointly with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the EU has assisted more than 11.000 migrants to voluntarily return to their home countries from Libya and Niger. Taking the work initiated in 2016 under the Partnership Framework on Migration forward, the EU and its Member States have intensified efforts to save lives, break the business model of smugglers and traffickers, fight root causes and work in partnership with countries of origin and transit, while upholding European values and the respect for human rights.
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: "When we speak of migration, we often say that we are facing a complex challenge, but we should never forget that we are dealing with the stories of hundreds of thousands of human beings. The EU is leading when it comes to concretely helping and protecting migrants. Through joint work with UN agencies and our African partners, we have achieved some initial encouraging results on our priorities - saving lives of migrants, breaking the smuggling networks' business model, while increasing the fight against poverty and working on legal avenues to Europe. We are advancing towards a system tojointly and sustainably manage, in full respect of human rights, a situation which requires strong partnership, sharing of responsibilities, solidarity, and sustained commitment. We are finally on the right path - we need to continue to work with consistency and determination".
The partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the IOM has been strengthened all along the Central Mediterranean route, with specific programmes in place for protection and support of migrants- such as primary health care, access to documentation-, assisted voluntary returns and reintegration for returnees. There is good progress in a number of priority areas agreed under the Partnership Framework and the Action Plan on measures to support Italy from 4 July 2017, including on return and readmission. In the coming months the work will continue and the EU will continue to stand ready to mobilise all relevant leverages and tools, including visa policy, to build constructive cooperation in this area.
Concrete results achieved under the Partnership Framework
Dialogue and cooperation under the Partnership Framework with the African priority countries Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia continue. In the Sahel region, the EU is providing support to improve security and development. So far, 169 contracts were signed for a total amount of over €1.2 billion under the EU Trust Fund for Africa, whose reach has been expanded to include Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. Projects have been launched to help job creation or support basic social services for the benefit of the local population. To increase security, the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions in the region are being reinforced and their scope is being regionalised. With €50 million, the EU is also the main contributor to the G5 Sahel Joint Force, put in place to enhance regional border security and fight traffickers.
Cooperation has also been stepped up with partner countries in North and West Africa, as well as in Asia, where an agreement on Standard Operating Procedures was reached with Bangladesh.
Positive progress along the Central Mediterranean Route
Work along the Central Mediterranean Route has been further stepped up, continuing Search and Rescue at sea, work with Libya's neighbours and voluntary returns. Following up on the Action Plan to support Italy from 4 July, a €46.3 million project was approved under the EU Trust Fund for Africa to reinforce border and migration management capacities of the Libyan authorities. This complements ongoing work with international partners, such as the IOM and UNHCR, to improve the protection of migrants and refugees, increase assisted voluntary returns,open legal avenues to persons in need of protection and build resilience of host communities. The Commission has mobilised funds to support over 37,000 resettlements in 2018, including from North Africa and the Horn of Africa. Training and capacity building of the Libyan Coast Guard is being taken forward under the Seahorse Project and by EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia, including the set-up of a monitoring mechanism to follow up on the training.
The measures put in place by the EU institutions and EU Member States need to be further stepped up. Reduced migratory pressure along the Central Mediterranean route provides an opportunity to make further progress on actions put in place since the launch of the Partnership Framework approach last June. Available instruments and resources should therefore be expanded and existing projects to foster socio-economic resilience in countries of origin and transit should be swiftly implemented. EU Member States' commitment and engagement should increase, especially in regards to pledges under the resettlement exercise launched by the Commission on 4 July and resources made available to the EU Trust Fund for Africa.
The upcoming EU – Africa Summit in November 2017 will constitute an opportunity to take stock of progress made within the framework of the Partnership Framework with African countries.
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