Why Valletta has not done much in stemming illegal migration of Gambian youths

By Vincent Ogo

June 28, 2021

The Migration Summit held in November 2015 in Valletta, Malta, that was attended by European and African leaders was convened principally to seek ways of tackling the problem of illegal migration to Europe from the African end.

It can aptly be described as one of the most important global conclaves of the decade, not least because it was meant to address an issue that had reached a crisis point.

The Action Plan adopted at the Summit is built around five priority domains: Development benefits of migration and addressing root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement, Legal migration and mobility, Protection and asylum, Prevention of and fight against irregular migration, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings, Return, readmission and reintegration.

The plan explained that it is within these five domains that Sixteen Priority Initiatives was to be launched before the end of 2016.

However, while the Work Plan could be described as laudable, in that it is ambitious, comprehensive, and seeks to address irregular migration holistically, it is needful to emphasise that many of the priorities as contained therein are not new. Valletta was by no means the first attempt at cooperation to tackle irregular migration between and among countries in Europe and Africa.

EU policymakers should bear in mind that for decades many governments in Africa have consistently failed to come out with the right formulae or blueprint for a sustained economic development of their countries. The ruling elite in these countries usually control the wealth, leaving the masses excluded.

Monies disbursed to resettle returnees and equip young people with skills have most often been embezzled.

 The result is that young Africans continue to risk their lives trying to get to Europe.

Handurabi Jallow and Buba Ceesay, both in their early thirties, are Gambian returnees. None of them have benefitted from any skills training for which the EU had provided funds. Both men try to make ends meet by washing cars. Handurabi was in Libya for 10 years. He has resolved never to attempt such a journey again, unlike some other returnees who feel let down by the authorities. They don’t really care about risking the journey again.

Momodou Jallow, another returnee, is now focusing on his work as a tailor, a skill he learnt before travelling to Libya and attempting to cross to Italy. He says he doesn’t in any way blame young people going ‘back way’ or returnees trying to migrate again, as conditions here are so frustrating. Momodou also has not benefitted from any EU funded programme for ex-migrants.

Nwabu Azomso, a researcher in illegal migration suggests that the EU should adopt a radical approach in engaging stakeholders in the campaign in order to prevent funds released to implement the Valletta Work Plan and other anti-illegal migration cooperation plans from being misappropriated by corrupt local authorities. “It is even better to appoint officials and agencies from EU member states to work directly with local authorities and the target beneficiaries in Africa, mostly the young people, to ensure that funds are used for the intended purpose so that results can be achieved,” he advised.

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