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Hon. Marit Maij: “Africa and the EU need a common comprehensive approach to migration”

Point of View

Marit Maij

Novum/Freek van den Bergh

The Hague, the Netherlands – Following the recently held Africa-EU Summit, Hon. Marit Maij, Head of the AWEPA Section in the Dutch Parliament, shares her point of view on migration and mobility, topics which will be central to AWEPA’s 30 years celebratory conference.

In April this year, the heads of State of the African Union and the European Union met in Brussels. One of the topics on the agenda was migration and mobility. The joint declaration of the EU-Africa Summit on migration and mobility shows that it is complex to come to a common approach on migration since the interests of the countries of origin, transit and destination are drifting apart. This is the case both inside the two continents and between the two continents.

Growing attention has been paid to migration because of the tragedies that take place so frequently since last autumn in the Mediterranean Sea. People die in an attempt to cross that sea from the shores of northern Africa to the island of Malta and Italy. Growing attention has been paid to migration because of the tragedies taking place in countries in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Huge waves of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) are on the move in Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea and, recently, in the Middle East not only in Syria, but also in Iraq. People are fleeing from civil war and political oppression. At the same time, people, mainly young people, young men, are leaving their hometowns looking for a more prosperous life in an unknown country.

The successful approach to migration is a comprehensive one. An approach that addresses the challenges, difficulties and opportunities of migration. An approach that addresses all forms of migration: legal, irregular, circular, temporary, asylum and return.

But before the EU can come to an optimally working comprehensive approach in its relation with the African continent, the EU has to finish some homework. All Member States of the EU should properly implement the directives that describe the ways in which asylum seekers should be given shelter and the way in which asylum procedures should be organised. The common asylum and migration policy that was initiated in 1999 has still not come to full implementation.

In parallel, current affairs and developments force us, African and European nations, to take action. The most immediate action that has to be taken is to provide people in refugee camps in the region with proper shelter, protection, food and medication. The needs in new camps around Juba and in the Central African Republic, and in long existing camps in northern Kenia or eastern Ethiopia, are tremendous. EU countries have to contribute generously and help with expertise and in-kind. The best place to give shelter to refugees is as close to their homes as possible, so that they can return when security improves.

Protection of asylum seekers in Europe is also an important element of a comprehensive approach to migration, as is return policy, and the facilitation of regular migration, fighting human smuggling and trafficking. These elements are all mentioned in the declaration of the heads of State of the EU and Africa.

But the most important element, in my view, is addressing the root causes of migration: lack of economic and social prosperity, civil war, political oppression, lack of personal freedom and violation of human rights. These are the issues that should be addressed, but they are the most difficult to discuss, because they touch upon the political and economic system and internal development of sovereign countries. I would like to work towards a future in which people can migrate out of free will and not because of a negative push factor. As long as we do not have a stable region with equal possibilities, equal opportunities, free of wars and of oppression, a comprehensive approach to migration is the second best but necessary option.

About the author
Marit Maij Marit Maij is a Member of the Dutch Parliament since 2012. Previously, and for several years, she was a diplomat. As part of her career at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she dealt with a number of critical issues related to the African continent, such as humanitarian aid and migration. In her current role as an MP, Hon. Maij holds the portfolio of Europe, Asylum and Migration.