European politicians, under severe pressure to reduce the exodus of African refugees, have now begun providing equipment and training to the security forces of some of the worst dictators.
This was revealed by the German magazine, Der Spiegel.[See below]
The magazine wrote that a secret plan has been prepared: “Europe want to send cameras, scanners and servers for registering refugees to the Sudanese regime in addition to training their border police and assisting with the construction of two camps with detention rooms for migrants. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has confirmed that action plan is binding, although no concrete decisions have yet been made regarding its implementation.”
In November last year I explained that this was very likely to take place, following an EU-African summit held in Malta. [See below]
I pointed out that the EU – African action plan allowed for this: ‘Europe will offer training to “law enforcement and judicial authorities” in new methods of investigation and “assisting in setting up specialised anti-trafficking and smuggling police units”. The European police forces of Europol and the EU’s border force (Frontex) will assist African security police in countering the “production of forged and fraudulent documents”.’
Questionable Deal: EU to Work with African Despot to Keep Refugees Out
In an effort to help keep refugees from Africa at bay, the EU is planning to deliver personal registration equipment to Sudan, whose president is wanted on war crimes charges. Germany is leading the way.
The ambassadors of the 28 European Union member states had agreed to secrecy. “Under no circumstances” should the public learn what was said at the talks that took place on March 23rd, the European Commission warned during the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee. A staff member of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini even warned that Europe’s reputation could be at stake.
Under the heading “TOP 37: Country fiches,” the leading diplomats that day discussed a plan that the EU member states had agreed to: They would work together with dictatorships around the Horn of Africa in order to stop the refugee flows to Europe — under Germany’s leadership.
When it comes to taking action to counter the root causes of flight in the region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, “I strongly believe that we must improve peoples’ living conditions.” The EU’s new action plan for the Horn of Africa provides the first concrete outlines: For three years, 40 million ($45 million) is to be paid out to eight African countries from the Emergency Trust Fund, including Sudan.
Minutes from the March 23 meetings and additional classified documents obtained by SPIEGEL and the German public television station ARD show “Report Mainz” show that the focus of the project is border protection. To that end, equipment is to be provided to the countries in question.
War Crimes and Torture
The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges relating to his alleged role in genocide and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict. Amnesty International also claims that the Sudanese secret service has tortured members of the opposition. And the United States accuses the country of providing financial support to terrorists.
Nevertheless, documents relating to the project indicate that Europe want to send cameras, scanners and servers for registering refugees to the Sudanese regime in addition to training their border police and assisting with the construction of two camps with detention rooms for migrants. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has confirmed that action plan is binding, although no concrete decisions have yet been made regarding its implementation.
The German development agency GIZ is expected to coordinate the project. The organization, which is a government enterprise, has experience working with authoritarian countries. In Saudi Arabia, for example, German federal police are providing their Saudi colleagues with training in German high-tech border installations. The money for the training comes not directly from the federal budget but rather from GIZ. When it comes to questions of finance, the organization has become a vehicle the government can use to be less transparent, a government official confirms.
An important refugee route runs through Sudan, Africa’s third largest country. Migrants from Eritrea, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic all seek to make their way via Khartoum to Libya, where they catch boats to Europe. The United Nations says that there are currently 4 million people in flight in the area.
In recent years, Europe has delegated responsibility for those seeking protection to third countries, like Morocco, Ukraine and, more recently, Turkey. Now, with al-Bashir, the job of controlling migration is being turned over to a suspected war criminal. “A regime that destabilized the region and drove hundreds of thousands of people to flee is now supposed to stem the refugee problem for the EU,” criticizes Marina Peter, an expert on the Horn of Africa region at the German relief organization Bread for the World.
The plan is also controversial within the EU. The “risks” listed in the action plan includes the fact that equipment financed by the Emergency Trust Fund could be abused by repressive regimes and used in the oppression of the civilian population. A general with Sudan’s Interior Ministry told SPIEGEL and ARD that technology would not just be used to register refugees, but also all Sudanese. The regime’s goal appears to be the absolute surveillance of its people.
Can Sudan Be a Serious Partner?
Experts like Peter also express doubts about whether Sudanese leader al-Bashir is prepared to take serious action against migrant smugglers. Human Rights Watch has claimed in reports that the Sudanese regime itself works together with criminal networks. The report alleges that the police and military have sold refugees to human traffickers. The European Commission, meanwhile, has warned EU ambassadors in a classified memo that Sudan is primarily interested in polishing its image abroad.
Germany and the other EU member states nevertheless seem determined to push ahead with their pact with the despot. Sudanese authorities say there have been numerous visitors from Germany in recent weeks who were there to discuss the construction of closed camps. When questioned about its role, Germany’s GIZ issued a written reply that there were no concrete plans in the country yet.
With the latest deal on migration, Europe is wooing Africa’s dictators
The agreements made at the Malta summit reveal that European leaders have decided that it is prudent to live with African leaders, no matter how unsavoury some of them might be.
By Martin Plaut
Source: New Statesman
The unprecedented EU-African summit that has just ended in the Maltese capital Valletta was proclaimed a success. It was an example of African leaders co-operating with their European counterparts to resolve a common problem: the refugee crisis.
The political communiqué (pdf) was replete with motherhood and apple pie.
“We recognise the high degree of interdependence between Africa and Europe as we face common challenges that have an impact on migration: promoting democracy, human rights, eradicating poverty, supporting socio-economic development, including rural development, mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.”
The reality, buried in the action plan (pdf) was rather different. Certainly there were elements that were welcome. These included a recognition that African states bear the greatest burden of refugees – only a minority of whom actually make the journey to Europe.
There was also an understanding that the camps in which so many languish need to be upgraded. Security in the camps must be improved, education and entertainment needs to be provided, so that young men and women are not simply left to rot. There are even suggestions that some – a tiny, educated minority – might be able to travel via legal routes to European destinations.
What is really worrying is contained in paragraph 4 of the document. Here are details of how European institutions will co-operate with the African partners to fight “irregular migration, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings”.
This aim is laudable enough. But consider the implications through the eyes of a young refugee struggling to get past Eritrea’s border force, with strict instructions to shoot to kill, or to escape from the clutches of the dictatorship of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Europe will offer training to “law enforcement and judicial authorities” in new methods of investigation and “assisting in setting up specialised anti-trafficking and smuggling police units”. The European police forces of Europol and the EU’s border force (Frontex) will assist African security police in countering the “production of forged and fraudulent documents”.
While there would be few who would oppose offering such support to democracies like Ghana, what will be the implication for the majority of refugees fleeing from notoriously repressive African states like Eritrea and Sudan? The price of forged passports is certain to rise all along the paths refugees tread, from Khartoum to Niamey.
The threat this poses refugees is no idle speculation. The latest quarterly report from Frontex (pdf) indicates that Eritrea is the main driver of African refugees. Eritrea is responsible for the third largest exodus of all refugees landing in the EU (10 per cent of the total) behind Syria and Afghanistan. Even war-torn Somalia does not come close.
The Eritrean government has made plain its intention to end this embarrassing exodus. At the last high-level meeting with the EU in 2014 the Eritrean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Osman Saleh, told the gathering that:
“Eritrea values its partnership with the European Union and is determined to work with the EU and all European countries to tackle irregular migration and human trafficking and to address their root causes. We call for an urgent review of European migration policies towards Eritreans, as they are, to say the least, based on incorrect information, something that is being increasingly acknowledged.” [emphasis in the original]
The Eritrean government will never accept that it is its own policies that force its young people into exile. Yet this is clearly the case.
The UN Commission of Inquiry into Eritrea’s human rights made this clear in June this year. Its key finding was that: “The Government of Eritrea is responsible for systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that have created a climate of fear in which dissent is stifled, a large proportion of the population is subjected to forced labour and imprisonment, and hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled the country… Some of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity.” [emphasis added]
Despite this scathing finding European leaders, including David Cameron, had no qualms about reaching an agreement with the Eritrean and Sudanese governments. The aim of the European leadership is to attempt to slam the continent’s doors shut at any cost. Hardly surprising that Eritrea’s Foreign Minister welcomed the outcome. “A clearer and more accurate picture of the reality is emerging,” he said.
In reality, the West has decided that it is prudent to live with African leaders, no matter how unsavoury they might be. The Arab Spring is today seen to have led to the chaos that gripped Egypt and the collapse of the Libyan state. Rather than face a renewed threat of Islamist extremist regimes foreign ministries from Washington to Rome would rather back the current dictators. Better the devil you know. . .