The geopolitcal interests of EU Member States in the Sahel have long lead to interventions aimed at the securitisation of the region that can be dated back to the early postcolonial period. In the wake of recent instability, however, the recourse to such interventions has intensified.
Since the launch of the European Agenda on Migration in May 2015, however, we have also seen a convergence of these pre-existing geopolitical interests with an ever-expanding EU preoccupation with the so-called refugee ‘crisis’. This convergence has often taken the form of an increased humanitarian posturing vis-à-vis the refugee debate, irreversibly conflated with a securitisation framing of both the refugee themselves and of any response devised to reverse migratory flows. The same refugees that recent EU debates depict as a ‘security threat approaching the external EU border’ are also presented as in need of ‘saving’ and ‘protecting’. It is crucial to understand the escalation of the EU’s rhetoric - of ‘saving migrants’ lives at sea’ and ‘preventing migrants from embarking in perilous journeys’- as a tool which fundamentally attempts to justify an increased militarisation of key ‘partner’ countries of origin and transit, not least in the Sahel.
This policy brief wishes to problematise this approach by examining the way in which EU policies have crystallised the securitisation of migration and intensified military intervention in the Sahel. The brief analyses the implications of such policies on the ground, paying particular attention to Niger which has become, once again, a strategic country for the EU and its Member States.
This brief was originally published by the Forced Migration Unit of Nottingham University.