Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

European governments are setting global precedents that often hinder people’s search for safety and dignity. Speaking in Brussels among EU leaders and civil society at the European Development Days, Sipho Mthathi, Oxfam’s Executive Director in South Africa, made clear that EU policies have dangerous knock-on effects in parts of the world where people are often already under threat.

Chain-reaction of denial

Sipho Mthathi said: “Governments in Africa are watching what Europe is doing. They see how Europe wants to prevent migration because Europeans think of migration as a problem. As a consequence, some of our governments are changing their approach and copying the European template. They have started to make deals with other countries to make sure that people stay there.

“European governments often pretend that there is a massive number of people wanting to migrate to Europe. But there are so many smaller countries that are actually taking in large numbers of people, while Europe with its massive resources is trying to escape its responsibility.

“Some African governments are now using Europe as an excuse for not taking responsibility. They say: ‘If Europe doesn’t do it, why should we – with fewer resources – do it?’

“The European approach seems to be that they want to pay, and somebody else will take responsibility. But it’s creating a chain reaction where nobody takes responsibility.

“We need a global response where everybody takes responsibility, not an approach that undermines the rights of people to move safely. We expect Europe to set a positive example for governments worldwide.”

Don’t ignore African voices

This week, European leaders will meet in Brussels to review progress on the EU’s Migration Partnership Framework – a European approach to negotiate migration governance and development with third countries. These discussions should not ignore the longer-term impacts that European policies have on the rights of people moving away from danger or poverty. The EU must take a new approach, to ensure that the rights of migrants, including refugees, are protected, not threatened.

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