Source: The Globe Post

Europe’s Determination to Halt African Migration Makes Friends of Dictators

For more than a month, the people of Sudan have been on the streets, attempting to rid themselves of a dictator who has ruled their lives for three decades. Since demonstrations began against the soaring cost of bread, authorities say at least 30 protesters have died, but opposition sources put the figure at 45. President Omar al-Bashir, who seized power in a coup in June 1989, is contemptuous of the protestors, warning the “rats to go back to their holes.”

For the European Union, this has been an awkward time. Officials from several European countries are stationed in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, working directly with the Sudanese government.

A Regional Operational Centre (ROCK) has been established, staffed by officials from Britain, France, and Italy. The E.U. itself explained its role: “The aim of ROCK is to strengthen the coordination of police services in the region through the collection, exchange and analysis of operational data, in order to facilitate the dismantling of criminal networks.”

Cooperation EU and African States

A lengthy article in The New York Times clarified the function of the officials working in the ROCK, explaining how the Europeans rely upon information from the Sudanese National Intelligence Service to do their work.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. Photo: AFP

The integration of the Sudanese security services means that Europeans are working directly with officials involved in propping up al-Bashir’s regime. Among these agencies are the Rapid Support Forces, an organization fashioned out of the notorious Janjaweed, which terrorized the Darfur region in Western Sudan.

An agreement between European and African states, signed in Malta in 2015, laid the foundations for this cooperation. The action plan agreed by both sides includes a range of ways in which European and African police and security services should cooperate. This is one of them: “Enhance operational police cooperation and exchange of information between countries of origin, transit and destination of migration, including, where appropriate, through Joint Investigation Teams with the agreement of countries concerned.”

This close cooperation has continued and been enhanced, despite the notoriety of the African regimes with which the E.U. has to work. Early in 2019 the role of chairing the Khartoum Process, which regulates this E.U.-African cooperation, will be taken by Eritrea. The fact that Eritrea has one of the worst human rights records in Africa – and is regularly referred to as the “North Korea” of the continent – appears to have given E.U. officials few sleepless nights.

Migration Control

In 2015, Brussels created the E.U. Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, a special pot of money to assist the Khartoum Process in addressing the root causes of migration and fighting trafficking and smuggling. Analysis by Oxfam revealed that only 3 percent of the €400 million allocated went towards developing safe and regular routes for migration. The bulk was spent on migration control.

African migrants stranded on a boat coming from Libya wait for rescue services, near Sfax, on the Tunisian coast, on June 4, 2011
African migrants stranded on a boat coming from Libya wait for rescue services. Photo: Hafidh, AFP

An investigation by the IRIN news agency quoted the head of the Sudanese Ministry of Interior Passports and Civil Registry Authority, Police Lieutenant General Awad al-Neel Dahiya, justifying the use of the money. As a key interlocutor with E.U. officials, he explained that Sudan needed this aid.

“As a matter of fact, we have very long borders – 7,000 kilometers plus,” he told IRIN. “Compared to our resources, it is very difficult to control – maybe we can be assisted by technology, so we can control the influx, as well as those going out – whether its Sudanese [people or people from] other countries passing through Sudan.”

Police Cooperation

The cooperation does not end in Africa. Officials from countries working together with the E.U. have been sent to Europe to increase the efficacy of the migration controls. Sudanese police have been posted to Italy, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sudan in August 2016.

This agreement was aimed at increasing police cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime and especially irregular immigration. The agreement allowed Sudanese officials to be based in Italy and embedded within the Italian immigration process. Press statements at the time made explicit links to the framework of the Khartoum Process. The Sudanese have similar ties with France, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

The police and security services of Europe are therefore working closely with their opposite numbers in repressive regimes like Sudan. Europeans are to be found in Khartoum, and African officials are to be found in Europe.

Wall Across Mediterranean

When these measures are matched by closing ports to sea-rescue missions in the Mediterranean, is it any wonder that the number of Africans reaching European shores is falling rapidly?

The route across the central Mediterranean – once among the most active – has “plunged” according to the E.U.’s frontier agency FRONTEX: “The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first half of 2018 fell to roughly 16,100, which is less than a fifth of the number from a year ago.”

While President Donald J. Trump attempts to extract funds for his wall along the Mexican border from an unwilling Congress, European politicians have quietly constructed a virtual “wall” across the Mediterranean. And it is increasingly effective.