Impact of European migration deals on human rights in Africa

Human rights protect the dignity of real people. When human rights are violated, such as through torture or other violence, the victims are often people who are already suffering from disadvantage or injustice.

Migration routes in the area of the Rabat Process (grey) and Khartoum Process (orange). Image credit: QCEA

A prominent example is the question of how Europe responds to people who are trying to leave their home country to live here? In general, European countries are working hard to prevent migration from Africa, and other parts of the Global South. This includes actions and policies that make it more difficult for people to:

  • Cross the EU’s external border
  • Cross the national borders of other countries that are on common migratory routes to Europe
  • Apply to migrate to Europe
  • Stay in Europe if they did not get permission before they arrived

Preventing migration is a huge part of international diplomacy, both between European countries and between Europe and its neighbouring continents.

Next Wednesday and Thursday (14-15 November) senior officials from African and European governments will meet to discuss migration. The meeting takes place under one of two similar structures that have been set up between EU member states and states in west and central Africa (Rabat Process), as well as between EU member states and states in east Africa (Khartoum Process).

Khartoum Process meeting in London. Photo credit: EU / ICMPD, 2016.

These regional processes are the focus of much of the diplomatic effort for governments to work together on migration policy, producing specific action plans and allocated financial resources. The Rabat and Khartoum processes sit between global processes at the UN, as well as bilateral processes that take place between the EU and individual African countries.

Over the last six months the Quaker Council for European Affairs has undertaken a specific research project on the Khartoum Process. QCEA brings a vision based on the Quaker commitment to peace, justice and equality to Europe and its institutions. We have therefore taken it upon ourselves to engage with policymakers,

Khartoum Process meeting: Photo credit EU / ICMPD, 2016.

working with them to analyse current policy and develop new options that better protect human rights.

QCEA has worked with a range of experts to publish a discussion paper which focuses on how the human rights of migrants can be better protected. The research identifies how the Khartoum Process has brought governments together to cooperate in ways that they would otherwise not. However it also identifies weaknesses in the Khartoum Process’s transparency and its engagement with local people and international organisations.

One of the most fundamental questions raised by the discussion paper is how far the Khartoum Process is really in the interest of African countries. In particular, concerns are raised about policies that reinforce borders within Africa as a part of a ‘whole of route’ approach to migration, and the barriers this may create to regional cooperation.

The paper recommends a different model in which local, national and international actors work together to construct, from the bottom up, a new narrative on migration. The absence of safe and legal ways for migrants to enter the EU from Africa is also identified as a factor supporting trafficking networks in the region.

Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini was interviewed for the research and has written a foreword to our report. Following its publication this week, QCEA will be continuing the conversation with European governments and institutions.


However, change will be difficult.

The Rabat and Khartoum Processes are generally considered to be working well, and the absence of human rights considerations is not a significant concern. In July (2018), when the UK government published its negotiating position on its future relationship with the EU known as its Brexit White Paper the Khartoum Process was specifically mentioned. Whilst there is little reference to peacebuilding, human rights and development in the ‘Chequers’ document, the UK government stated that it would like to continue to participate in EU dialogues with Africa, and specifically in the Khartoum Process, “to tackle illegal migration upstream”.


A golden opportunity for peacebuilding

In the last four decades, the people in the region covered by the Khartoum Process have confronted a range of challenges, such as violent conflicts, state failure and economically and environmentally damaging climate change. Migration within and from the region has been a major consequence.

Our research found that there are real opportunities for conflict prevention and peacebuilding, but that these approaches are often be poorly understood by policymakers working outside of these fields. One of the examples of successful engagement with the root causes of migration mentioned in the report is the work of the Quaker organisation the American Friends Service Committee. AFSC operates a successful Tango Talks project in Kenya which supports reconciliation through dialogue forums comprising law enforcement, community leaders, youth leaders, religious leaders and other stakeholders to discuss issues affecting refugee communities and find common solutions.

The Khartoum Process has the best chance to succeed if it broadens its dialogue and support to better encompass root causes. These types of approach naturally value human rights as they engage with the harms that drive migration. Policies that seek to build higher walls at Europe’s border and between African countries bring with them risks that are very difficult to foresee from Europe.

To read the report click here.





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For more information about QCEA’s work click here.

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