Addressing migration requires stability in North Africa

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi at the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt, March 2, 2017
Chancellor Merkel and President El-Sisi were all smiles as they met at the Pyramids in Giza this month. Stability in Egypt is key to addressing the migrant crisis (source: dpa)

Migrants have come to Europe over the last few years through a variety of transit countries. Refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have come through Turkey, whereas the migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa mainly travel through the North African countries, from where they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

The European Union, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the cockpit, reached an agreement with Turkey last year, offering financial support in return for Turkey keeping refugees from crossing into other European countries.

The pressure from migration has hit Europe unprepared. This is astonishing, since thorough geopolitical assessments had long forecast this as an obvious outcome. For its part, GIS has warned, even several years ago, of this eventuality. About two years ago, we wrote about Europe’s coming “demographic tsunami.”

Back then, we pointed out that a major flood of migrants would have to be expected from Africa. When Europe supported the so-called “Arab Spring,” which started in 2011, it ignored that a high level of instability in North Africa would result in the elimination of the buffer these countries provided, especially Egypt and Libya.

After having traveled to Turkey at the beginning of February, Ms. Merkel just visited Egypt. And as with Turkey, she is trying to support Egypt and its present government in order to maintain stability. GIS highlighted in a report back in July 2013 that instability in Egypt would not only allow uncontrolled migration from (mainly) the Horn of Africa, but would also result in millions of young Egyptians attempting to enter Europe.

The German Chancellor appears to be the only European leader willing to address this problem

The German Chancellor appears to be the only European leader willing to address this problem. Europe still has no solution for the situation in Libya, the main transit country for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. The country is in the throes of a civil war and Europe supports the internationally recognized, but totally toothless government in Tripoli, which has very little power and insufficient support among the population.

Russia, which has initiated relations with General Khalifa Haftar, the “warlord” in Benghazi, is pursuing a more realistic strategy there. The West’s indecisiveness and its tendency to “back the wrong horse” could end up being as disastrous in Libya as it was in Syria.

Europe has lost precious time and proven its bad judgment. We can only hope that Egypt will remain stable. This is not assured, but it is in Europe’s vital interest. It must avoid making the wrong assessments out of naive sentiments again. Europe will also have to take a clear and realistic view of Libya.

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