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EU aid chief urges migration plan for Africa

Written by: Staff

TRIPOLI, Nov 23 (Reuters) The European Union's aid chief today proposed a 40 million euro (52 million dollars) fund to help manage and streamline African migration to Europe.

EU aid and development Commissioner Louis Michel told an Africa-Europe migration conference that the movement of thousands of Africans to Europe was a natural phenomenon which should not be demonised.

He said efforts to manage African migration, due to begin in 2007, would also seek to increase the supply of jobs in Africa by promoting investment in labour intensive sectors there.

''We should stop resorting to repression, a security focus, gesture politics and the demonisation of migration. It's not something perverse or criminal. Let's treat it like a natural phenomenon,'' he said.

The plan, to be run in partnership with African countries, would also seek to lower the cost African emigrants face in sending remittance funds and investment capital back home, he told the final day of the two-day meeting of African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) interior ministers.

Michel said he envisaged the creation of a network of migration bureaux around Africa that would seek to regulate the supply of African labour according to European demand for jobs.

''We have had first contacts with Mali, which was very interested (in a migration bureau),'' said Michel's spokesman Amadeu Altafaj, adding that Senegal would also be a priority.

The proposal for the 40 million euro fund is yet to be approved by the whole European Commission, he added.

The International Organisation for Migration's (IOM) representative in Libya welcomed the idea of a joint EU-Africa migration fund.

''It's the major breakthrough (of the conference),'' Laurence Hart said. Otherwise, ''there's nothing new under the sun. We all agree on the analysis, now we have to take action,'' he said.

FALLING BIRTH RATES Illegal migration is a thorny issue in Europe, where some politicians have campaigned against it to popular effect. Some economists say more immigration to Europe is needed to make up for falling birth rates.

Africa has urged Europe to be more open to legal migrants and argues a crackdown on migrants, without more development aid, will only push the flow to other places.

European governments, some of them under pressure at home to toughen immigration policy, have accused African counterparts of failing to fulfil accords pledging to combat illegal migration.

The conference ended with the publication of a joint communique that contained a raft of measures couched in general terms intended to boost cooperation on controlling illegal migration and facilitating legal migration.

It said both continents reaffirmed that they had a duty to cooperate fully, including on the return of illegal immigrants to their countries of origin in a human and orderly manner.

''Returns should always be carried out in dignity and with respect for human rights,'' Finnish Interior Minister Kari RajamJaki said. Finland holds the rotating EU presidency.

Reuters SBA VP0142

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