German Chancellor Angela Merkel Visits North Africa Hoping to Stem Migrant Crisis

© REUTERS/ Hannibal Hanschke

Analysts say Europe should focus on economic aid, not just border security measures

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Germany will help Egypt curb illegal migrant flow into Europe, especially through Libya. The promise came during a two-day visit to North Africa. Merkel will visit Tunisia today to discuss similar migration-control efforts.

Germany suffered several terror attacks in 2016, the most deadly by a Tunisian man who staged a truck attack in Berlin after he was denied asylum.

Germany’s current electoral season has put pressure on the country’s leaders to stem the thousands of migrants entering the country, as well as speed up the repatriation of those denied asylum.

But analysts say the deals proposed so far could leave migrants at risk of more abuse.

Following her meeting with Egyptian President Abdel el-Sisi, Merkel said Germany would help crack down on illegal migrant trafficking and strengthen the country’s coast guard.

“Egypt has made some proposals for technical support that also must be further discussed, but I think that when it has to do with border security, Germany is very ready to deliver support,” Merkel said at a joint news conference.

The discussions also involve speeding up the return process for migrants denied asylum. Germany received some 700,000 asylum applications in 2016 and rejected nearly 300,000 of them. The country was only able to send home 80,000 of the rejected applicants last year.

In December, Tunisian national Anis Amri killed 12 people when he drove a truck into a crowded Berlin Christmas market. Investigations revealed German officials denied Amri’s asylum request and tried to deport him prior to the attack.

Amri came to Germany by way of Libya, where political instability has allowed unregulated migrant trafficking and smuggling to flourish. The country serves as the main gateway for African migrants fleeing across the Mediterranean to Europe, and thousands have died trying to make the dangerous crossing to Italy.

Nando Sigona, a senior fellow at the school of social policy at the University of Birmingham, said Libya’s political instability has made Egypt and Tunisia crucial partners in Germany’s efforts to stem migration.

The partnership will “create a buffer zone around Libya to control the migrant flows,” Sigona said.

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Onize Ohikere