Next October 6th, the European Union (EU) will open a Centre for Migration in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Refugee organizations strongly criticise this “Centre d’Information et de Gestion de Migrations” (Cigem) even before it has become fully operational. They call it an “outpost watchtower of Fortress Europe”.
The Cigem will be staffed with fourty Malinese employees. It will be financed by Europe and provided with technical assistance of several European development agencies – figuring also the Belgian Development Cooperation Agency (BTC).
‘The Cigem is a pilot project.’, says Ilse Cougé of the European Commission, ‘For the first time the EU will help a sub-Saharan African country to solve its problems of both legal and illegal migration, by approaching the phenomenon in all its aspects. The centre aims to promote the mutual gains of legal migration, to discourage illegal migration, to profit from the transmission of diasporas’ funds and knowledge and to strive for a better understanding of the migration processes to develop an adequate policy.’
Organizations for refugees of Black Africa are stressing out the preventing focus of the centre. ‘Deterring illegal immigration is indeed one of our goals’, admits the freshly appointed Cigem director Abdulaye Konate, ‘but is not the only one.’ Aligning demand and supply on the regional labour market, thus helping more people in West Africa to obtain a job, is equally important and even a priority. The centre will therefore cooperate intensively with the Malinese “Agence Nationale pour l’emploi” (ANPE) – an agency similar to the VDAB in Belgium – and its younger section, the “Agence pour L’Emploi des Jeunes” (APEJ).

Gathering at the Gates

Media highlights of people storming the fences around the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla, sub-Saharan Africans left behind in the desert between Morocco and Algeria, pateras drowning on their quest for the Spanish of Italian main land … all this suggests that hordes of Africans are gathering at the gates of Europe.
Draconic safety measures as the Spanish SIVE (sistema integrado de vigilancia exterio) and the efforts of the European agency Frontex – which has upgraded the border controls of African states – add to the feeling of insecurity of the scary white European. Yet figures show that illegal migration from Africa to Europe has always been and continues to be limited. Four out of twelve million Malinese nationals are living outside the nation’s borders: 3.5 million people in other African countries and a merely 200.000 in Europe.
Konate: ‘Our migration is directed mainly towards neighbouring countries as Ivory Coast and towards Central-African countries as Cameroon and Gabon.’ Many Malines migrate, due to lack of work, and are joining the diasporas that send vital alien currencies back to Mali.

Transit country

Still, after visits of the European Commissioner Louis Michel (Development and Humanitarian Aid), the French development Minister Brigitte Girardin and the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Bernardino Leon, Mali was an eager client for the First European regional “migration centre”.
Although the centre is officially owned by the Malinese state, it is fully financed by Europe. This isn’t all without reason … for several years Mali has become an important link in the South-North migration line. The borders at the Mediterranean Sea are increasingly getting waterproof secured (we have Morocco, Algeria and Libya to thank for it). Consequently the routes d’aventure have been moved further south. Boat refugees now already depart in Mauritania, Senegal and even more further south. Mali is turning more and more into a transit country, as well for refugees passing as for send back refoulés. The last ones are not seldom brutally left behind in the desert between Algeria and Mali or – to keep things slightly more civilized – get dropped of at the tarmac in Bamako.

Ten million euro

Europe is outsourcing its border controls to countries outside its frontiers in exchange of aid measures. Receiving states are aware of that, and are not hesitating to ring the alarm bell about immigration problems allegedly getting out of control. If we would believe what the Lebanese head of state Muammar Khaddafi tells us, about two million Africans are lining up to make the crossover from Libya. The “grand leader” knows off course very well that this helps him to get European funding.
For now Mali has remained silent in this bargaining game. However it required material and logistic support from Frontex to enhance its border controls. Also, via the new Cigem, there will be research for regional migration fluxes and preventive campaigns aimed at people planning to depart. In exchange Europe will provide co-developpement and other kinds of support.
Some people resent the fact that Cigem is financed out of the development budget of the EU (more precisely the 9th European Development Fund): 10 million euro programmed for a period of three year. However the EU argues that development and preventing illegal migration are two sides of the same coin.
Konate doesn’t seem to mind: ‘Taking into account that Cigem will contribute to the development of Mali by elaborating measures to prevent illegal migration, helping people getting a job, financing local development projects and offering a focal office for employers and returned migrants, could we not justify the funding of Cigem?’  


It remains to be seen if the new centre can properly fulfil her versatile mission. One of the ambitions is to help refoulés getting a new job and future. ‘Previous reintegration projects in the Kayes region have failed miserably because the returned migrants were using the given support to retry the crossover once more’ says Mohamed Cheick Tabouré, director of the Malines newspaper Sanfin/La Nuée.
Cigem is often said to be inspired by the Moroccon Anapec, the “Agence Nationale de Promotion de l’Emploi et des Compétences”. The latter also received European support and is now implementing bilateral treaties with Spain. This year thousands of season workers were promised to Spain. The Moroccon fruit gatherers could only work in Spain, under the condition that they were country women with a family. After their interim job, they would surely not stay in Spain but return home.
Isn’t this what Cigem is about? Provided that there is a market demand, the centre will assist the Malinese government to negotiate labour-migration-treaties with EU member states and other regions, quote the press file of Cigem, which is later to be released.
‘When those bilateral treaties are ratified, the possibilities for legal labour migration will increase.’ It is uncertain if Mali will then be able to agree on good terms for “his” nationals. The Association Malienne des Emigrés, that opposes the Cigem in the Bamako call, is warning for a new phenomenon of “Kleenex workers” – workers to be disposed of after use like a paper tissue.

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