Merkel turns to Africa to curb migrant flow


BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel wraps up on Friday a week of Africa diplomacy aimed at slowing the flow of migrants to Europe from a continent battered by conflict and poverty.

She will host Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, having also met Chad’s head of state Idriss Deby two days earlier following a three-day whirlwind tour of Mali, Niger and Ethiopia, the seat of the African Union.

As Germany, Europe’s top destination for people fleeing war and misery, looks to chair the G20 next year, it has pledged to step up efforts to help Africa and fight the causes of the mass migration. “The well-being of Africa is in Germany’s interest,” Merkel said at the start of her first major Africa trip in five years.

In Mali, she said it was crucial that “African countries don’t lose their brightest minds” needed to develop their own countries.

Germany has taken so far this year thousands of African refugees – more than 10,000 from Nigeria – though most asylum-seekers in Germany came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and over 13,000 from Eritrea.

Throughout her three-nation trip Merkel repeatedly warned Africans against crossing dangerous deserts and seas for an uncertain future in Europe.

“Often it’s the young people who head for Europe with completely wrong ideas,” she said in Addis Ababa. “They risk a life-threatening journey without knowing what’s waiting for them or even whether they’ll be able to stay.” The best way to stop the mass flight, she said, would be to encourage greater stability in their countries of origin.

Merkel said that as chair of the Group of 20, Berlin would next year host a conference on investment in Africa, especially in the transport and energy sectors. Meanwhile, she pledged 10 million euros in military aid to Niger and an additional 17 million euros to encourage human traffickers to switch livelihoods.

On Thursday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere suggested that migrants rescued at sea should be taken to “accommodation facilities” in North Africa. “Their need for protection would be verified and we would put into place a resettlement to Europe with generous quotas, fairly divided between the European countries,” he told reporters in Luxembourg. The others, he said, would have to “go back to their home countries.”



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