The European Union has contributed nearly $35 million to fund projects to protect migrants and fight against smugglers and traffickers in Africa and the surrounding Mediterranean.
The projects are supported by the EU Trust Fund for Africa which will help sustain reintegration and voluntary return efforts as well as helping combat the criminal human trafficking networks across the region, according to the European Commission.
Nearly $12 million will go to the International Maritime Organisation programme which supports the ongoing efforts of migrants’ voluntary return. It will enhance the protection of migrants and support sustainable reintegration systems in North Africa and provide assisted voluntary return.
Some $18 million has been allocated to a programme which helps dismantle criminal networks operating in North Africa in migrant smuggling and human trafficking.
Under this programme, implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), capacity-building as well as light equipment, such as IT and forensic tools, will be provided to individuals working in law enforcement and criminal justice.
Morocco will receive nearly $6 million for migrants’ legal empowerment which will be implemented by the Belgian Technical Cooperation in order to maintain the protection and resilience of migrants and refugees, displaced persons and host communities.
This is a new action plan complementing the EU support to the implementation of the Moroccan National Strategy on Migration (SNIA). The programme will support actors who help migrants and refugees access their rights, such as lawyers, students, civil society associations and justice staff and will develop and create legal clinics in the cities of Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier and Oujda.
A joint EU, AU and UN Task Force was set up last week to protect migrants and refugees and fight the criminal networks operating in the area.
“We already assisted over 14,000 people stranded in Libya to return and will support an additional 15,000 returns by February 2018. And we will support our partners to counter traffickers and smugglers, assisting them in bringing peace and security to the region,” EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini said.
“The current challenges in the Mediterranean Sea remain a top priority for the European Union. The EU Trust Fund for Africa continues to take action to tackle the root causes of irregular migration and to defend the rights of people who risk falling into the hands of traffickers and smugglers,” Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn added.