S. Waziri Hassan

The Invincible Financier

How Europe is Funding the North Africa to Curb the Migration Crisis.

A story of a Tunisian guard and a Cameroonian migrant has made headlines among humanitarian groups. The Tunisian  official said to Francois, a 38 year old Cameroonian and other group of Black migrants. “There is Algeria, follow the light. If you are seen here, you will be shot.”

Using patrol boats donated by Italy,Tunisian authorities are blocking the sea route to Lampedusa. Fast RIBs ‘rigid inflatable boats’ normally intercepts the migrant boats before transferring them to patrol boats. The patrol boats eventually return to the port of Sfax in Tunisia where migrants are dropped off.

Francois, a 38 year old from Cameroon, has set off four times in overcrowded boats from Tunisian coast in the hopes of reaching Europe. All four times,he was picked up at sea and returned to land. On his last attempt, Francois and his wife (Awa) and his stepson (Adam), had been intercepted by the Tunisian coast guard in the Mediterranean blue waters. Still wet and cold, the group of 30 migrants, including pregnant women, were ordered to walk toward their punishment ‘Desert’.

Their ordeal- an exodus of at least 340 miles from sea to dunes, recounted by Francois and verified by matching GPS tracking on his phone with images and videos he captured during the nine days of pilgrimage, illustrates one example of the draconian practices being deployed in at least three North African nations to dissuade sub-Saharan migrants from risky crossings to Europe.

These clandestine operations targeting caravans of Black migrants have a silent financier “Europe”.

A year long joint investigation by international media houses like Lighthouse Reports, Le Monde, The Washington post, AP, Reuters show, Individual European nations are supporting and financing aggressive operations by governments in North Africa to detain migrants and dump them in remote areas, often the barren Sahara;

European funds have been used to train personnel and buy equipment for units implicated in desert dumps and human rights abuses, records and interviews show. Migrants have been pushed back into the most inhospitable parts of Sahara, exposing them to abandonment with no water and food, extortion, torture, slavery, sexual violence and even death.

Spanish security forces in Mauritania photographed and reviewed lists of migrants before they were driven to Mali against their Will and left to wander for days in an area where violent Islamist groups operate and other nomadic tribal warlords operate, according to testimony and documents.

In Tunisia , Mauritania and Morocco, vehicles of the same make and model as those provided by European countries to local security forces round up Black migrants from streets or transport them from detention centres to remote regions, according to filmed footage, migrant testimonies, interviews with officials and verified images on social media.

European officials held internal discussions on some of the abusive practices since at least 2019, and were diminished to allegations in reports by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and FRONTEX, the European Union (E.U) border agency.

Between 2015 and 2021, The European Union has provided more than 400 million Euros to Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania, under its largest migration funds. The E.U. emergency Trust Fund for Africa, an initiative to foster local economic growth and stemmigration. In addition, the E.U has funded many other projects that are difficult to quantify and track due to a lack of transparency in the European Union’s funding system.

To confront this surge of irregular migration in 2023, European Countries moved to strengthen their partnerships in the Sahel region, offering an extra 100 million Euros to Tunisia and signing a deal in February of 2024 with Mauritania to provide an additional 210 million Euros.

The European Union,under its own laws and as well as the International treaties, is obliged to ensure that its funds are spent in ways that respect fundamental human rights. But the European Commission, the Bloc’s executive branch, has conceded that human rights assessments are not conducted when funding migrant management programs abroad. The Agencies that receive E.U. funds are expected to monitor implementations in partnership with external consultants. But accountability for how equipment and funding are used is often vague, and senior European officials privately concede that it is ‘Impossible’ to regulate all uses.

In January 2024, Ylva Johansson, the E.U minister in charge of migration, acknowledged reports of desert dumps in at least one country, Tunisia. And conceded that “I can’t say that this practice has stopped.” but she strongly denied that the Bloc was Sponsoring the mistreatment or deportation of migrants through financial support.

Marie-Laure Basilien Gainche, a human rights and legal expert at France’s Jean Moulin Lyon III University, said- “ The fact is European states do not want to be the ones to have dirty hands. They do not want to be considered responsible for the violation of human rights. So they are subcontracting these violations to third country states. But I think, really, according to international law, they’re responsible.”

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