Europe's Plan to Deport More Migrants Meets African Resistance

  • Clash at Malta summit echoes U.S. debates on immigration
  • EU offers 1.8 billion euros in extra economic aid for Africa

Migrants and asylum seekers mostly from Sudan wait for a bus outside the sub-prefecture of the northern French port of Calais after leaving the 'Jungle' camp to go to respite care centers on October 27, 2015.

Photographer: Philippe Huguen/AFP via Getty Images

European Union plans to clamp down on migration met resistance from African leaders, who called on the EU to open more channels for their people to live and work legally in Europe.

At a summit in Valletta, Malta, the EU offered more development aid in exchange for an African pledge to take back -- or “re-admit” -- more people who cross the Mediterranean Sea and settle in European cities without job or residence rights.

“Readmission is a difficult subject, we can’t just have this discussion from the European perspective,” Macky Sall, president of Senegal, told reporters Wednesday before the summit. He called for a “frank discussion” of legalizing the status of Africans already in Europe.

The clash over deportation or legalization echoed debates over immigration in the U.S. presidential campaign, and showed how hard it is for Europe to get to grips with the continent’s biggest wave of migrants and refugees since the end of World War II.

‘Demands and Expectations’

Europe’s open societies and porous land and sea borders make deportation difficult. Fewer than 40 percent of “irregular” migrants who were ordered out of European territory in 2014 actually left, EU data show. Some throw away their passports to make them hard to identify and trace.

“We have to be firmer about readmissions,” French President Francois Hollande said.

The 28-nation bloc’s main offer at the summit with representatives of more than 30 African countries was a 1.8 billion-euro ($1.9 billion) trust fund that will be used to promote economic growth to keep people at home and to fight the traffickers who exploit those who want to leave.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said extra financing comes attached to “clear demands and expectations” directed toward the African side.

EU leaders scheduled the Africa meeting in April, when most migrants were coming through strife-torn Libya across the central Mediterranean Sea. Now most are fleeing Syria or Iraq -- not represented at the Malta summit -- and passing through Turkey before reaching the European shore in Greece.

The EU-Africa meeting runs until Thursday afternoon, followed by an EU-only summit to review the refugee-control efforts.

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