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EU offering Africa trade deals, investments to halt Mediterranean suicides

The death toll coming from Africans’ suicidal journeys across the Mediterranean for greener pastures in Europe has gotten to the crescendo it has forced the European Union (EU) to start working on a model that will halt the trend as soon as possible.

Accordingly, the EU is offering trade deals and investment to African countries to tame the tide of human flow and the associated deaths.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on her arrival to the EU summit in Brussels that “It is not just about money, it is about substantially improving the capabilities and the chances of people in these African countries and to give hope”.

She said in exchange for financial support EU leaders require their African partners to impose tighter border controls and to take back illegal migrants.

“More efforts are needed to stem the flows of irregular migrants, in particular from Africa, and to improve return rates,” said the joint statement on migration, agreed by EU leaders.

Already, leaders have given their backing to the model devised by the EU Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, to initially use the new approach with five African countries: Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia.

“First results of these plans will be presented by Mogherini at next EU summit in December, with a view to extend the approach to other countries,’’ the report said.

Statistics show that Eritrea, often described as Africa’s North Korea for its reclusive regime and poor record on human rights, is another African country that may be considered by the European Union.

Eritrean migrants are among the most likely to be granted asylum in the EU because of the situation in their country.

Italian diplomats welcomed the new focus on Africa, which mirrors Rome’s earlier proposals to tackle the root causes of migration.

A reference in the joint text to the “significant” financial efforts made by Italy in dealing with migrants was also seen as a success by Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who however warned that now actions have to follow words.

Renzi is in talks with the European Commission over its expansionary budget for next year, which may breach EU fiscal rules also for migration spending, which is much higher than Brussels, seems ready to accept.

While planning increased controls at Europe’s external borders, EU countries are also discussing plans to fully dismantle temporary border controls that were introduced among European states during the migration crisis in 2015, when more than one million migrants reached the continent.

But the compromise text was watered down from an initial version that promised to progressively get back to a fully border-free area, known as Schengen.

It would be recalled that death tolls from the suicidal open boat journeys across Mediterranean sea is about to cross the 500,000 mark by year end if nothing is done by EU.

Only weekend, some 115 would-be immigrants await rescue on their boat after it ran into difficulties, 48 nautical miles off Malta.

European Union (EU) leaders agreed weekend to curb illegal migration from African countries with the aim of replicating their success to halt inflows from Turkey over the past year.

While migrants reaching Greece from Turkey have dropped to a trickle after a deal with Ankara in March, arrivals in Italy from Africa are increasing so far in 2016.

“Italy received 154,000 migrants in 2015 and 2016 figure is likely to be higher; on Thursday more than 1,400 boat migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya,’’ Italy’s coastguard said.