The 44 billon Euro plan for Africa

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The African Union, in conjunction with the European Union and the United Nations, has finalized a plan which aims to halt the escalation of the migration crisis in Libya while simultaneously putting an end to the resurgence of slavery of Sub-Saharan migrants on smuggling routes to the Mediterranean.

On November 30, 83 of the world’s heaviest political weights from Africa and Europe convened in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, for the Europe-African Union summit.

The plan that emerged from the summit seems optimistic, if not an outright attempt from the European Union to compensate for the blind eye it has turn the migration crisis the past decade. The European Union has pledged a Marshall Plan for Africa of 44 billion Euros. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker claimed that the “external investment plan for Africa” will be achieved by 2020, with the majority of funds primarily invested in growth sectors like renewable energy. The Commission has budgeted 4.1billion Euros for the plan—and making the remaining attractive for private investors will be an arduous task. However, according to Mr. Juncker, investing in Africa is investing in the generation of tomorrow. The African population is set to “increase by 1.3 billion inhabitants by 2050 with more than 50 per cent of Africa's population being young”.

It is not only a stimulus for incredible economic growth but also a token of intention for long-term international trust in African governments and future relations.

Yet, this is also Europe’s attempts to make amends for the mishandling of the migration crisis in the wake of the power grab of many populist parties in most European democracies.

While the summit’s financial outcome was expected to exceed the most optimistic projections, the summit itself was “dominated by outrage over slave auctions of migrants in Libya”. The furore over illicit slave auctions was highlighted in a mid-November CNN report, in which British reporters infiltrated the trafficking routes of Sub-Saharan African smugglers. Their report did not only reveal the incredible plight of migrants coming from Mali, Niger, Ethiopia and Nigeria—but uncovered a literal slave trade.

Earlier this year, investigative journalist Ross Kemp had visited Libya in an attempt to reconstruct the migratory routes from Sub-Saharan African countries to Italian shores. Yet, what he found in Libya shocked him—and is now shocking the rest of the world. Kemp wrote in an expose for the Guardian that many migrants “see their European dream turn into a nightmare long before they’re corralled on to flimsy rubber dinghies on Libya’s beaches”; referring to what awaits them once they decide to make the journey from their homes to Tripoli.

The ordeal of many Sub-Saharan African migrants begins the moment they make their decision. Through phone applications and social media—according to the International Organization for Migration—smugglers sell car rides and boat rides to Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and then Sicily. However, their fate is sealed when they sell everything to finance absurd prices for these rides. Ill-equipped for a days-worth car ride, migrants are smuggled in open trucks across a thousand or more miles of desert with little food or water.

Countless die on the journey; the fate for those who survive is even worse.

What the CNN footage revealed is the fate of those who survive. Once at the border with Libya, some do not even make it to Tripoli, and are instead “rerouted”, taken to undisclosed locations by menacing militia who coerce them into paying a large fee to be liberated or to do slave work to pay for their release.

Then, just like cattle, young men are sold at auctions to buyers for as little as $400.

According to Kemp, “compassion fatigue has set in.” The Northern hemisphere has the privilege to turn off the television, shut down the computer, and close social media apps when the numbers become too big to comprehend. The issue lies precisely with numbers: spewing large numbers—of people, of dollars—has created a numbing effect which bystanders around the world seem to have been unable to shake off.

But what lies beneath—the human experience, the human life—should motivate collective outrage. It is occurring in large numbers; but it would be unacceptable even if it occurred to one person.

The nightmarish ordeal does not end there unfortunately. Once in Tripoli, migrants are either held in detention centres upon arrival, as undocumented immigrants, or make it onto those plastic dinghies that cross the Mediterranean Sea with little chance of survival but hopeful of seeing Sicilian shores. Kemp, in the same cautionary article written in February, commented that, “it’s an old story; we feel numbed by the now familiar news images of men huddled together on boats.”

Numbed, or outraged, European public opinion has titillated between the two, and with governments failing to take decisive actions to systematically accept or deny these migrants, the vacuum has been filled by populist parties. Their power grab, especially in Italy, has been fuelled by the dissatisfaction of Italians with the government’s indecisiveness. Unfortunately, unlike the Germans, Italians have seen this migration flow as damaging to their already weak national economy. In reality, African migrants are an enormous relief on Italy’s aging demographics and fill the gap of high-skilled and low-skilled labour left by Italians who emigrate elsewhere. Kemp, again rightly analysed that “maybe it’s because they’re African and have been written off as “undeserving economic migrants”... the people some of our political leaders have in mind when they talk of swarms, plagues and marauders.”

But the resurgence of slavery in Africa shook not only Italy, but all the European powers, whose imperial past still haunts their modern politics and influences their relations with African governments.

At the Europe-African Union summit, European and African governments vowed to repatriate the tens of thousands of displaced Sub-Saharan Africans, who are presently housed in detention facilities in Tripoli. These facilities, which would be more aptly described as warehouses, are the site of unchecked violence, rape, and murder. The aim is to repatriate all those who voluntarily wish to return to their home countries, and hopefully discourage others who are set on leaving for Europe’s shores. Among other promises, the international agreement has also vowed to bring the smugglers in front of the International Criminal Court.

The fact that the migration crisis is being truly spoken about just recently is disheartening: this does not avenge the thousands of people that lay at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. However, the hope is that increased cooperation will lead to a decisive resolve. And they say hope is the last to die.

 

Maria Julia Pieraccioni

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