In mid-2016, EU efforts to disrupt the business model of migrant smugglers – one of the main pillars of its migration policies – resulted in the sponsoring of police actions in Agadez, Niger. The assumption underlying this course of action was that smuggling and trafficking can and should be addressed by the securitised and militarised approaches that the international community generally applies to transnational criminal activities. In this policy brief author Fransje Molenaar argues that in the case of Agadez this approach did not work: it eventually dug its own grave as it did not provide direct economic alternatives to a local community that lost an important source of livelihood.
The approach could have benefited from lessons learned from the international community’s decade-long experience with disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR), which combines securitisation with programmes for economic integration. Applying best DDR practices to the case of Agadez allows for the formulation of an integrated approach to human smuggling in Agadez and beyond.
The prioritisation of the EU for a securitised approach speaks volumes to the imbalance of interests that characterise the migration partnerships, where the need to address the local economic hardship resulting from the EU’s efforts to promote its own interests (stopping irregular migration) is a mere afterthought. More balanced partnerships can only be achieved on the basis of the following conditions:
- The European Commission must ensure that any external financial instrument for migration management includes benchmarks related to respect for human rights and support for local development, not (just) reducing irregular migration;
- The EU EmergencyTrust Fund (EUTF) should combine the implementation of migration projects with an assessment of local needs;
- At a project level expectations should be carefully managed and there is a need for investment in careful preparation.