Sahel-Saharan countries, Europe’s new sentries
Julien Brachet, Gwenaëlle De Jacquelot, Brigitte Espuche, Sara Prestiani, Anne-Sophie Wender
In order to fight against irregular immigration from sub-Saharan Africa - even though it is numerically insignificant on the scale of the two continents - Europe has engaged African countries that look onto the Mediterranean and, more recently, Sahel countries, to control or relentlessly stem the migration movements in the Sahara, often in contempt of basic human rights. Since the resumption of the so-called “5+5” dialogue in Lisbon between representatives of countries on the Mediterranean’s southern (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, with the addition of Mauritania) and northern shores (Spain, France, Italy, Malta, with the addition of Portugal), the “concerted” management of migration flows between Africa and Europe is dominated by the present Europeans security approach. This translates, in particular, into the requirement that controls be strengthened further away in a southwards direction, and by the willingness to strike readmission agreements with most African countries. This type of externalization on the southern front of the European Union (EU) also aims to contain migrations arriving from the Middle East or Asia. This intention to “reinforce and make the fight against irregular migrations more effective in countries of origin and transit countries”, announced during the ministerial conference on migration in the western Mediterranean (Tunis, October 2002), that has been regularly reiterated since, has entailed the official and de facto hardening of north African countries’ migration policies, within which detention and removals are the daily lot reserved to migrants. Attention was initially paid to Africa’s Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. At the time, the first large migration control programmes were established, in particular through the setting up of the “SIVE” electronic surveillance system for Spain’s southern coasts since 1998, then through the creation of the Frontex agency to manage organizational cooperation by EU member states at the external borders in 2004. But this focus progressively shifted further south, towards Saharan spaces. The Nigerien-Libyan border, just like the Malian borders with Mauritania and Algeria, have thus, step by step, become priority areas for the fight against “irregular immigration” coming from Africa towards the European Union.