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The EU's Migration Diversion

Outsourcing the Refugee Crisis

Migrants sit on their belongings in the back of a truck as it is driven through a dusty road in the desert town of Agadez, Niger, May 25, 2015. Akintunde Akinleye / Reuters

On September 8, six days after the body of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian refugee, was found on a Turkish beach, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said in an overdue statement, “We can build walls; we can build fences. But imagine for a second if it were you, your child in your arms, the world you knew torn apart around you. There is no price you would not pay, there is no wall you would not climb. . . .” Although he later announced that Europe would open its doors to 160,000 migrants and resettle them in various member countries over the next few years, the EU has not changed its long-term strategy to keep refugees out. In fact, the European Commission has made plans, quietly, to beef up the offshore processing of refugees, including by building a temporary migration processing center in Niger.

A “COMMON APPROACH”

In May, the European Commission published the Agenda on Migration with little fanfare. This communiqué stressed the importance of dealing with the “crisis in the Mediterranean” before the pressure became “intolerable.” It also recognized the link between the fragile security situation in the Middle East and Africa and the recent uptick of Middle East and African asylum seekers in Europe. So far this year, over 350,000 migrants have arrived at Europe’s borders.

Migrants pass by a Hungarian soldier as they cross the border from Serbia near Roszke, Hungary, September 14, 2015.

Bernadett Szabo / Reuters

In order to stem the tide, the EU planned to pilot a processing center for Africans seeking humanitarian visas in Europe and, if that is successful, to build other centers in the Middle East and the Maghreb. Around 90 percent of all West African migrants, roughly 100,000 people each year, pass through Niger on their way to Libya to reach Europe, triggering crises like the one last month (which has been largely forgotten but not fully resolved) when thousands of West African migrants in Calais, France, sought to cross the Chunnel into the United Kingdom.

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