EU leaders approve S$2.7 billion migrant trust fund for Africa

African Union Commission chairman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (left) poses with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Nov 11, 2015 in Malta.
African Union Commission chairman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (left) poses with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Nov 11, 2015 in Malta.PHOTO: AFP

Valletta (AFP) - EU leaders attending a summit with their African counterparts on Thursday (Nov 12) approved a €1.8-billion (S$2.7 billion) trust fund for Africa aimed at tackling the root causes of mass migration to Europe.

"For the Africa Trust Fund and our response to be credible, I want to see more member states contributing and matching the €1.8 billion  the EU has put forward," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said as EU leaders signed the deal in Malta.

The commission said so far 25 of the 28 EU member states and two non-EU donors Norway and Switzerland had pledged a total of around €78.2 million in matching funds, far short of the €1.8 billion Mr Juncker has called for.

EU officials have not ruled out more pledges at the EU-Africa summit that ends later on Thursday in Valletta and said they could also come over the coming weeks.

Senegal's President Macky Sall, who also chairs the Economic Community of West African States, and other African leaders told reporters the fund, as it currently stood, was not enough.

The fund is designed to tackle root causes of migration, such as poverty and violence, by creating jobs and intensifying diplomatic efforts to reduce or end armed conflicts in parts of Africa.

In return, the EU hopes to sign later on Thursday a five-point action plan with the African leaders aimed at obtaining their cooperation to re-admit more irregular migrants sent back from Europe and clamp down on people smugglers, while offering Africans expanded but limited legal channels of migration.

"This Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, set up at a record speed, shows once more the EU's commitment to swiftly reply to the large challenges we are facing in the region," Mr Juncker said.

"To succeed, we need to work together with other European countries and our partner countries in Africa in addressing the root causes of irregular migration and promoting economic and equal opportunities, security and development," he said.

The EU-Africa summit was first called months ago when the Mediterranean route from lawless Libya was still the main springboard for migrants travelling to the EU in battered fishing boats and flimsy dinghies.

Nearly 800 migrants died in a single shipwreck off the Libyan coast in April.

Turkey has overtaken North Africa as the main launching point for migrants coming to Europe, and currently hosts two million Syrian refugees.