Responsibility for Africa: Making migration safer and improving prospects for the people

13.07.2018 - Article

Many Africans have left their homes behind, whether to search for a safer livelihood or to escape war and terror. We need to support the activities on our neighbouring continent to address the challenges of migration and displacement and to offer people better local prospects.

First aid at the border
First aid at the border© GIZ

Migration is not a new phenomenon in Africa. For many, it preserves their livelihood. According to the United Nations, there were around 25 million migrants across Africa in 2017, an increase of 10 million compared with the year 2000. This figure refers to people who have left their country looking for training or a job. It is estimated that a further 21 million are fleeing war, terror or persecution. The majority (around 15 million) are displaced within their own country. Those who look beyond the border for safety usually end up in neighbouring countries. Only a small fraction of these migrants and refugees head to Europe.

In 2015, at a summit in the Maltese capital Valletta, the European Union (EU) launched the Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa. This wide-ranging initiative combines foreign policy, stabilisation and development goals and focuses on three regions – the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and North Africa. The EUTF for Africa is worth EUR 3.3 billion. The money is used to help refugees, migrants, and returnees as well as those in many African countries who have given refuge to large numbers of men, women and children despite being poor themselves.

Together with its national and international partners, the German development agency GIZ is actively involved in 23 African countries and through its regional projects and programmes in the wider effort to create lasting prospects for people in their own country. In the Horn of Africa, we also support efforts to reform the migration architecture and therefore make the process safer.

Medical treatment at the border
Medical treatment at the border© GIZ

First aid at the border

One measure designed to achieve this goal is first-aid training for border officials in Sudan. The humanitarian organisation Red Crescent has organised courses for more than 100 customs and immigration officials along the border and for those working at migrant reception points. Sudan lies on one of East Africa’s key migration routes. Migrants from all over the region – especially Eritrea, Ethiopia and neighbouring South Sudan – see it as their final destination or as a stopping-off point on a long journey. After a long trek through the desert, they are often parched. Some have broken bones. Others have been bitten by snakes or stung by scorpions. Refugees have frequently been imprisoned without medical attention because they have no papers. Thanks to the training, border officials are now in a position to administer first aid. There are plans to arrange further training for border officials so that they can identify those in need of help and refer them to the appropriate services.

Specially designed courses for border officials are part of a comprehensive programme (Better Migration Management, BMM) to improve migration management in the Horn of Africa. The programme is being implemented by GIZ on behalf of the EU and Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). All the measures are closely coordinated with the African Union Commission and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The main focus is on protecting and supporting migrants – especially women and children, who are often the victims of violence and rape on the long refugee routes. These measures include improving the medical care available to migrants. In Djibouti, for example, the programme has set up a clinic in Obock and mobile medical units in every one of the country’s regions. It has also helped to improve cooperation between the region’s neighbouring states – Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda. To address the trafficking and smuggling of people, the programme has helped build local expertise in the areas of migration policy, judicial procedure, and policing. It organises campaigns to highlight the risks facing migrants and refugees. Refugees frequently fall into the hands of unscrupulous traffickers and end up working as slaves. Around half a million people were able to learn about the risks involved through a social media campaign launched to coincide with an exhibition on people smuggling in Nairobi.

The ‘do no harm’ principle applies to all the countries involved in the programme. This means avoiding any dealings with people or groups linked to human rights violations. The emphasis is on observing human rights and complying with international conventions on the protection of refugees. Both GIZ and the EU/BMZ steering committee monitor the work of the BMM programme to ensure that this principle is upheld.

Help for the people of Agadez

GIZ is also active in Niger. Among other activities, Germany’s Federal Government supports the country in the context of EU Migration Partnerships, aiming at creating opportunities for local people to work and earn a living while addressing the root causes of migration. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel drew attention to this important aspect of cooperation when she visited the West African country in October 2016. GIZ’s focus here is on the region of Agadez in the centre of Niger. The region suffers from a lack of infrastructure despite its location as a hub on the migration routes in West and Central Africa. Steps are being taken to improve the living conditions of the poorest inhabitants, for example by creating around 26,500 jobs in agriculture and municipal waste disposal.

Vocational training for young Nigerians

The situation in the south of neighbouring Nigeria is also fragile. With over 180 million inhabitants, it is Africa’s most populous country. For the last ten years, it has also been plagued by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Around 2.3 million people have fled the violence in the north-east and sought safety in other parts of Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Millions of young Nigerians lack a proper education and job prospects. Many see migration as the only way to find work and a regular income, and for some, that means heading for Europe. This is where GIZ comes in. Acting on behalf of BMZ, the federal enterprise has helped to create a large number of apprenticeships in the construction and agriculture sectors, where demand is particularly high. Around 10,000 young people have taken up these opportunities. Not only have they improved their own prospects but also those of their families – and now have an alternative to a flight into the unknown.


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