The European Union is deploying a mix of carrot and stick policies to halt the flow of African migrants into Europe.
Apart from building a fortress Europe, the EU is planning to bribe African governments with aid package to help keep their people at home. It is also offering preferential trade treatment under what Brussels calls migration “compacts”.
It is an idea proposed by Italy, the main disembarkation point for Africa migrants.
It is initially aimed at Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Ethiopia and Mali.
“We need to clean this up and have migration compacts with African countries in place before next spring,” a senior EU official said.
Now to the stick: The bloc is determined to send back everyone whose life is not under immediate threat at home.
A Brussels summit on Thursday will endorse the pilot projects using the twin policy.
“By the end of the year, we need to see results,” one senior EU diplomat said on Wednesday.
Arrivals in Italy so far this year are nearly six percent higher than the same period of 2015. Italy received 154,000 migrants last year and this year’s figure will be similar or slightly higher.
Italy is sheltering 165,000 asylum seekers, almost three times as many as in 2014. The buildup has accelerated since Italy’s northern neighbours clamped down on border controls.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has told EU allies that Rome can cope for now but is worried about the future.
EU officials want to put in place tougher measures to identify illegal migrants and fly them back to Africa before next year’s migration season, when thousands are expected to take to precarious boats from Libya.
At their summit, European Union leaders will agree to use money and trade to force African countries to curb emigration, in a shift towards a more hard-nosed joint foreign policy.
Behind the diplomatic language lies a threat of cutting development aid and restricting trade with those African countries that do not cooperate before the next migration season starts in the spring.
But the new strategy of making aid to third countries conditional on their cooperation on migration is controversial.
Aid agency Oxfam has urged EU leaders to abandon their drive to build a “Fortress Europe” and instead help those in need.
“The need for development aid and Europe’s obligation to alleviate poverty should not be about reducing mobility,” said Raphael Shilhav, Oxfam’s migration policy adviser in Brussels.
“The reasons of displacement should be addressed through understanding the situation on the ground, seeking solutions to the conflicts that are driving displacement of people,” he said.