Europe is paying African states billions of euros to act as its new border police. Development aid is being used as a bargaining chip to control immigration. What price do refugees hoping to seek asylum pay and who is benefiting from this policy?
The EU is copying a policy pioneered by Spain over a decade ago. When boats full of refugees from West Africa began landing in the Canary Islands in 2004, the country reacted by paying countries like Senegal millions of euros to stop the wave of refugees. The Spanish coast guard began patrolling Senegalese beaches thousands of kilometers away from Europe.
Now the same idea is being implemented in big way in almost two dozen African countries. The name of the game: development aid in return for stopping migration from Africa to Europe. The EU is offering several billion euros for cooperation on migration controls. Whoever agrees to act as a gatekeeper for Europe is rewarded financially.
Police and soldiers from European countries are being sent to more and more African countries to help tighten up their border controls. Even dictatorships in Sudan and Eritrea are being made into European partners in the business of sealing off migration routes. The new policy is opening up new markets for European security and armaments firms looking to sell border control technology. African governments are using development funds to invest in cutting-edge equipment that they would otherwise be unable to afford. The African Union has criticized the measures. They are incompatible with its plans to establish freedom of movement across the continent — similar to the EU's Schengen Area.
Reporters Jan Schäfer and Simone Schlindwein have visited countries like Uganda, Niger and Sudan to investigate how the EU is implementing its migration policy in Africa and identify the winners and the losers.