BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 15 – Four European leaders – Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, and the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Roy – signed an agreement in Brussels with the President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou. Worth about 100 million Euros, the agreement pledge financial support to the African nation in the hope of creating conditions that will stem the migrations flow towards Libya and ultimately Europe. Niger is a main transit route, and 2016 has been a record year for migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, which are estimated at nearly 4,750.
The agreement was signed at the Permament Mission of Germany in Brussels ahead of a European Council meeting in the Belgian capital. Buoyed by the success of its refugee deal with Turkey, the European Union announced on Thursday that it has earmarked hundreds of millions in euros for Niger to prevent people from leaving Africa in search of better lives in Europe. “The goal is to offer people opportunities and prevent migrants to travel to Libya”, Merkel said.
Italy expects “concrete results” from the programme, Gentiloni said: “We consider Niger to be the antechamber of migration flows to Libya. Therefore, within the context of a policy that needs to take many steps forward, we are now taking a small but significant one”.
With arrivals in the Greek islands down to a relative trickle, the EU is looking to stop people from Western Africa moving north to Libya and taking unseaworthy boats in desperate attempts to cross the Mediterranean. As EU leaders gathered Thursday for a summit in Brussels, the European Commission announced that it would provide Niger with 610 million euros ($640 million) in development aid to tackle the root causes of poverty but also to fight human smuggling and boost border controls.