EU to spend €8bn to help non-EU countries tackle migration

Programme will target Lebanon and Jordan, as well as a number of African countries

The European Union is to spend up to €8 billion over the next five years to help non-EU countries tackle migration, in what has been hailed as a "new approach" to the refugee crisis.

Under the initiative, announced in Strasbourg yesterday, the European Commission will step up co-operation with so-called third countries that are struggling to cope with the refugee crisis, either as countries of transit for migrants or countries of origin.

The programme will initially focus on Lebanon and Jordan, before moving to include African countries such as Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ethiopia, Tunisia and Libya.

"Millions of people are on the move worldwide and we can only manage this if we act globally, in full partnership," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said as she announced the new measures in the European Parliament.


While the short-term objective of the programme is to “save lives in the Mediterranean”, it also aims to increase the number of migrants returning to their home countries and to allow migrants and refugees to “stay close to home and avoid people taking dangerous journeys”, she said.

The proposal received a mixed reaction from MEPs. While the centre-left Socialists and Democrats group welcomed the move to put Africa "at the heart of EU strategy" on the refugee crisis, the liberal group Alde and the Green group accused the EU of abdicating its responsibility and outsourcing the migration crisis to countries where human rights are not always guaranteed.



The €8 billion pledged will comprise a mix of already-agreed and new money, including an extra €1 billion for the Trust Fund for Africa. It also includes a proposed €3.1 billion investment fund which it hopes will trigger total investments of up to €31 billion in non-EU countries. This figure could double to €62 billion should EU member states match the commitments from the EU budget, the commission said.

But some campaigners questioned the suggestion that the provision of EU development aid to developing countries may be linked to the countries’ ability to curb migration.

The Green group's migration spokesperson, Judith Sargentini, said that any plan that would see development money used to tighten borders would be at odds with the EU treaties, which specify that development co-operation policy "should be aimed at eradicating poverty".

While the controversial EU- Turkey plan which came into effect in April has succeeded in dramatically reducing the number of migrants travelling to Europe via the Aegean Sea, refugees are continuing to make life-threatening journeys across the Mediterranean from north Africa.

Hundreds of migrants have died in the past few weeks after boats carrying refugees from Libya to Italy capsized.

Sustainable solution

Yesterday, the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) said more than 10,000 people had died attempting the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, with 2,814 people dying so far this year.

Announcing the EU's latest attempt to get to grips with the refugee crisis, which has overwhelmed policymakers over the past two years, European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said that a sustainable solution was needed.

“We cannot tolerate this, the loss of human life on this scale, and we must do everything we can to stop it,” he said.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent