African, European nations draft plan to battle illegal migration

High-ranking experts from a score of African countries and as many European nations have outlined a plan to battle illegal migration, combining measures to crack down against trafficking with proposals on keeping would-be migrants at home.

The plan, finalised in the Senegalese capital on Tuesday, will serve as the basis for a key ministerial conference on illegal migration due to be held in the Moroccan city of Rabat, 10-11 July.

“Uncontrolled migratory flows can turn into human dramas,” said Pascal Brice, the head of the French delegation. “We are working in partnerships to provide global and concrete solutions to problems related to safety and to development on the migratory routes linking Europe and Africa.”

Among measures agreed in the plan are tighter border controls, better police cooperation and state-of-the-art tracking equipment for African states, as well as an observatory body to monitor migration.

Other measures are aimed at promoting economic development to keep African youngsters at home.

Growing international efforts to stem illegal migration come as a new tide of impoverished Africans board open wooden boats on the coasts of Senegal and Mauritania in the hopes of reaching Spain’s Canary Islands, a few days’ ride away for those who make it and a stepping-stone to the wealthy nations of Europe. More than 9,000 illegal migrants have landed on the islands in the first five months of the year, which is more than during 2005.

A United Nations report released on Tuesday found that 191 million people were living outside their home countries in 2005.

The Dakar plan proposes schemes to help migrants return home and set up businesses, as well as participate in training courses in potential development sectors such as farming, tourism, fishing or crafts.

“Our main concern is to keep our people at home through development projects that contribute to individual and collective welfare as well as bring hopes of economic prosperity,” said Senegal’s Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom.

The planned repatriation of hundreds of illegal Senegalese migrants from the Spanish Canary Islands to Dakar was suspended last week after a first batch of 99 returnees claimed mistreatment.

Some of those flown back told reporters that the Spanish authorities had promised to fly them to Malaga or Madrid, but had never mentioned Dakar.

To help Spain manage the flux of illegal migrants, seven of the country’s European Union partners will begin joint patrols with Madrid off the West African coast soon. Countries involved are Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal.