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EU programme to restrain migrants risks galvanising Sahel jihadists

Migration levels in the Mediterranean are rising, provoking a barrage of criticism in European countries. Abandoned people at sea, overcrowded detention centres, outsourcing to North African partners and ignoring human rights violations are the result of political and humanitarian decisions by the European Union, according to EUobserver.

EU influence in the Sahara region is waning as post-coup governments consolidate power, driving out Western partners and clearing the way for territorial expansion by jihadist groups.

The vast majority of migrants travelling to the Mediterranean Sea, unable to emigrate legally, face a perilous journey. These predominantly young people, who perceive migration as the only possible way to enter adulthood, cross one of the most unstable regions of the world.

Moving across the Sahel, migrants put their lives in the hands of smugglers, middlemen, government officials, and armed jihadist and ethno-political groups. In a region of informal governance covering some 3,000 kilometres, people depend on competing networks along relatively stable corridors.

However, since the 2015 migration crisis, existing patterns of migrant movement have gradually eroded. Concerned about migration, the EU has channelled billions of euros into managing borders in the Sahara Desert, while forcing third countries such as Mali and Niger to criminalise irregular migration.

By turning smuggling into a particularly risky and low-margin industry, the EU claims to be effectively reducing the flow of migrants.

The Sahel is a centuries-old transition point for trade and migration, and the EU, instead of reducing demand, has simply increased the risk of mobility, turning migration into a conflict economy.

Malian returnees, most of whom were expelled from North Africa, explained how traditional corridors had suddenly closed due to the government’s harsh crackdown on illegal migration.

Having used alternative services across the border with Algeria, some migrants have experienced being abandoned and having their vehicles broken down, resulting in several deaths due to dehydration or injuries.

It is noteworthy that even with the possible loss of funds and health, most migrants would still take any opportunity to continue travelling.

Given migrants’ readiness to face all sorts of risks, the EU crackdown only increases the profits of those willing to supply and control increasingly dangerous journeys.


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