EU leaders will push their wary African counterparts to help tackle the migration crisis at a summit in Malta this week, offering them billions of euros in aid in exchange for cooperation.
Having recently pressed Turkey to stem the flow of Syrian refugees, Europe is turning its attention to the other main source of an unprecedented number of people fleeing across the Mediterranean.
The gathering of more than 50 leaders from both continents on Tuesday and Wednesday will see an overwhelmed Europe call on Africa to take back more people classed as economic migrants and not refugees from war.
In return, Europe will offer development funds in a fresh thrust by the wealthy EU to tackle the wars and poverty in Africa that are the root cause of nearly a quarter of the nearly 800,00 migrant arrivals in Europe this year.
“It’s a new impetus we want to give,” a European diplomat told AFP.
The summit was first called months ago when the Mediterranean route from a lawless Libya was still the main springboard for migrants travelling to the EU in battered fishing boats and flimsy dinghies.
Since then the journey from Turkey over the hazardous Aegean Sea to the Greek islands, and then up through the Western Balkans, has become the principal route, but the EU wants to keep a focus on Africa.
Eritreans make up the bulk of nearly 140,000 migrants who arrived in Italy from Africa by sea in 2015, along with 18,000 Nigerians and 8,000 Sudanese, according to International Organization for Migration figures.
“Despite the current focus on Syria, the Valletta summit is very important for European capitals, because it is aimed at tackling a long-term problem,” the diplomat said.
– ‘Trust fund’ for Africa –
He acknowledged the concerns of senior African officials like Khadim Diop, Senegal’s minister for African integration.
“We cannot tolerate double standards,” Diop said, adding Europe admits people from the Middle East and central Asia as refugees while turning away Africans as economic migrants.
Read more: Yahoo News