Francois Mori/AP
Illegal immigrants, mostly from Mali, occupy the lounge at "La Tour d'Argent" restaurant
in Paris, demanding that the government immediately grant them full working papers,
Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008.

EU Hopes to Curb Illegal Immigration Via Mali Immigration Center

October 07, 2008 05:58 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
The European Union has set up an immigration center in Mali, the first such center outside Europe.

Immigration Innovation

The European Union has established its first immigration center outside its own borders, in Bamako, the capital of Mali. The center is intended to reduce the number of West Africans illegally immigrating to Europe, an often hazardous procedure that results in many deaths every year, reports the BBC.

Officials hope the center will aid West Africans looking for legal work in Europe and warn them of the dangers of crossing the Atlantic in crowded boats, resulting in fewer illegal entrances. At the same time, the center could “encourage development within Mali, which lies at the center of key migration routes.”

At this early stage, the center will not act as a recruitment agency, and will not offer specific job vacancies. However, in the future, “European countries may recruit via the Bamako office,” said the BBC.

The center is viewed as a progressive way of thinking about immigration to Europe. “Instead of demonizing the migration phenomenon, it should be supported, structured and managed optimally as a positive human element for both Africa and Europe,” said Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid.

Spain has already taken a similar approach with Senegalese immigrants. A Spanish labor plan “offers legal passage and a one-year work permit to some” young Africans, in hopes that it will deter them from entering Spain illegally, reports The New York Times. The plan could “bring in thousands of immigrants,” some of whom will eventually “have the right to bring over their immediate family.”

Background: African immigrants flood EU

The Jerusalem Post reported that in 2008, at least 17 Africans have been killed by Egyptian border police while attempting to enter Israel. The entire northern Mediterranean shore faces a refugee influx. Most often, refugees are fleeing war or poverty in the Horn of Africa, arriving first in Libya, where trafficking gangs demand thousands of dollars to complete the journey to Europe.

The EU has been struggling to deal with immigration for years, and the issue sometimes overshadows others. In 2005, during a meeting of EU ministers about terrorism, talk turned to African immigration to Morocco and Spain.

Peer Baneke of the European Council of Refugees and Exiles accused some countries of attempting to “construct new Berlin walls around Europe,” forcing immigrants “to take even greater risks.”

Other countries have simply shipped immigrants elsewhere. Morocco, for example, has deposited “hundreds of would-be immigrants in desert areas near the Algerian border,” leaving ill-equipped Algeria with the responsibility of refugee protection.

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