EU Suggests Job Centers for Africa

To deal with the surge in African immigrants, the European Commission proposes a network of pseudo-placement agencies and a system of short-term work visits

In a bid to regulate the stream of African migrants trying to reach Europe's southern shores, the European Commission is proposing: teams to root out human traffickers, a network of job centres in Africa and 'work mobility' packages.

The proposals are part of a series of initiatives suggested by Brussels after the summer saw record numbers of people trying to get into the EU via Spain's Canary Islands, Italy and Malta - pushing the issue to the top of the bloc's political agenda.

EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini on Thursday (30 November) said one of the central ideas would be job centres - an idea "somewhat similar to placement agencies."

Under this scheme migrants in Africa looking to come to Europe would list their job skills - these would then be matched with EU countries looking for particular types of workers.

Mr Frattini said countries such as Mali, Senegal or Mauritius could "make known" to Europe "what supplies of worker they have in a particular centre."

Such centres would be "devoted to matching supply and demand" and would be backed up by so-called "mobility packages" under which workers would come to Europe for a short period of time under "guaranteed" proper working conditions so long as there was a commitment by their home countries to take them back.

The centres would also be part of an overall deal - to be worked out on a country-by-country basis - of making African countries take back illegal immigrants already in Europe.

"Once certain conditions have been met - such as cooperation on illegal migration and effective mechanisms for the readmission of illegal migrants - these packages could be agreed between the EU and interested African countries, which would make for easier movement of people and give them better access to the labour market of EU member states," the commission is proposing.

CENTRE FOR REMITTANCESThe commission is also looking into setting up a Europe-Africa institute for remittances - money sent back to home countries by workers abroad - with figures released by the World Bank suggesting remittances last year amounted to some $300 billion globally.

The institute would reduce the cost of remittances and provide more transparency, according to Mr Frattini.

Another key suggestion in the raft of proposals is a European team of experts being sent to African countries to help root out human traffickers, with horrific stories emerging of 1,000s of migrants dying in the waters between Africa and Europe due to unscrupulous human smugglers.

RESISTANCE?But although member states have been urging the commission to come with ideas in the area, they are likely to resist Brussels' attempts to control legal migration quotas.

Germany, particularly, has in the past put up strong opposition to any commission moves to deal out quotas and migrant numbers – an area strongly linked to national sovereignty.

However, the commission has not given up saying "it's a question of the EU's capacity to negotiate."

"Having indicated the requirements for the labour markets at national level, it might be possible in addition to give the commission the political wherewithal to negotiate," said Mr Frattini, indicating that he believed member states were slowly reaching a consensus on the issue.

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