Europe could be inundated with as many as 20 million African migrants over the coming years, the president of the European Parliament has warned.
Calling for an African Marshall Plan – a reference to the aid package handed to Europe by the U.S. following World War Two – Antonio Tajani has said Europe must also fund the building of refuges in Libya or face an ongoing migrant wave.
“Either we act now or 20 million Africans are going to come to Europe in the coming years,” Tajani told Die Welt.
Plans for migrant detention camps in Libya, where migrants can have their asylum claims processed before making the trip across the Mediterranean Sea, are proving controversial. Tajani said that the centres “will not be concentration camps”, explaining migrants will be able to access food, shelter, and medical treatment there for the months, or even years, it takes to have their claims processed.
The German interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, has signalled his support for the plan. But Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) has voiced opposition to the camps, telling a meeting of EU foreign ministers that Libya is “a very precarious place”.
Human rights groups have also opposed the idea, questioning whether the migrants would get a fair asylum hearing. “There will be no right-wing, individual and fair trial of asylum applications under European law in North African camps,” the German human rights group Pro Asyl said.
Among European leaders and NGOs, the ‘African Marshall Plan’ idea is less controversial. Plans are already underway to send billions in aid to African countries for education, agricultural modernisation, and infrastructure building in an attempt to deliver stability and democracy.
The European Commission has already agreed to send €62 billion in aid to a number of African countries including Mali, Nigeria, and Sudan in the hopes that better conditions at home will dissuade African economic migrants from making the trip north into Europe.
However, with Germany already on the hook for an extra €4.5 billion in European Union contributions in 2019, and the same again in 2020, and with youth unemployment rates in some member states still over 40 per cent, it remains to be seen whether the taxpayers of Europe will agree to have ever increasing amounts of their cash spent in this way.