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A breakdown of Europe’s €1.5bn migration spending in Nigeria

Maite VermeulenReinier TrompGiacomo Zandonini and Ajibola Amzat


After months of research, we attempted to map the migration projects Europe finances in Nigeria. Where does the money go? Border control and sending migrants back seem to be popular.

Since 2015, when hundreds of thousands of people crossed the Mediterranean in rubber dinghies, Europe hasn’t been the same. The “migrant crisis”, as Europeans have come to call the summer of 2015, launched a larger, faster, tougher and more expensive European migration policy.

A large part of that policy focused on Africa. Billions are spent there to ensure that potential African migrants do not become real migrants. The goal is fewer deaths in the Mediterranean and fewer arrivals in Europe.

We, a team of three journalists from Nigeria, Italy and the Netherlands, have spent months investigating exactly what this policy means in Nigeria, a country that, in the words of a senior European Union (EU) official, will become “our most important migration partner in the coming years”. We mapped how much migration money Europe sends to Nigeria and exactly how that money is being spent.

After five months of research, we haven’t been able to find anyone in Europe or Nigeria who has such an overview, so we don’t know whether the list we’ve drawn up over the past few months is complete. All conclusions should be taken with a little margin of error; we may have missed projects.

However, on the basis of our overview of 129 ongoing migration projects in Nigeria, we can certainly deduce some interesting points about how European migration money is spent. For the enthusiast, we present the most important findings and questions here.

What we found: more than €770m in Nigeria …

We found 50 migration projects in Nigeria funded by 11 individual European countries, and 32 migration projects funded through the EU. In total, this amounts to more than €770m.

The money from the EU is mainly spent on improving Nigerian border control – more than €378m. This amount is largely made up of one gigantic European Investment Bank project, which is investing €250m to create a digital identity card for every Nigerian. But even if you don’t count that project, border control remains the biggest expense.

The five largest migration projects in Nigeria have also all been paid for by the EU. Interestingly enough, two of these projects now seem to be at a standstill. We’re still doing more research into these.

The lion’s share of the money from individual countries goes to projects aimed at creating jobs in the country – at least €92m. The interesting thing about these projects is that they are often “restructured” versions of ones that previously tried to help underprivileged youths in Nigeria. Now they focus on potential migrants.

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Border control is the second biggest expense for individual European countries, followed by projects aimed at combating human trafficking.

If you add EU funds and funds from individual countries, then this is what migration financing in Nigeria looks like.

… and €775m in the region

In addition to the projects entirely focused on Nigeria, there are 47 “regional” projects. These are also implemented in other countries. They account for some €775m. It is not possible to say exactly how much of that money goes to Nigeria.

The focus of this regional money is mainly on migrants who are stranded along the way, returning and reintegrating them in their countries of origin, which amounts to more than €500m. Indeed, tens of thousands of migrants have been flown back to Nigeria after a failed journey in the past two years. They receive training and some start-up capital to get their lives back on track.

Awareness campaigns about the dangers of a trip to Europe also receive a relatively large amount of money in the region – at least €39m.

Some projects fall into multiple categories, sometimes making it difficult to categorise them under a single one.

Which country does what?

Of the 11 European countries that are directly active on migration in Nigeria, Germany is the frontrunner, with at least €68.2m invested in projects.

The UK, which is the largest donor for non-migration projects in Nigeria, is just behind with €51m.

The Netherlands is in third place, at some distance, with €6m.

The fairytale of more legal migration routes

All this money is part of a European migration policy which has “better legal migration” as one of its main objectives.

Just think: if there were more ways for migrants to (temporarily) come to Europe on work or study visas, fewer people would go on perilous journeys through the Sahara and Mediterranean. Moreover, this would allow Europe to fill gaps in its ageing labour market. It’s a win-win.

On paper, “better legal migration” should receive as much money as border control, another important pillar of EU policy. But if we look at the money flows to Nigeria, we see that this is certainly not the case. In Nigeria, only €300,000 is spent on creating more legal opportunities to migrate. That is 0.09% of European migration funds in the country.

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Who gets to spend the money?

Most of the funds are not given directly to the Nigerian government. Instead, the projects are carried out by implementing agencies.

The difference between the implementing agencies of EU funds and of individual European countries is striking. European countries spend the majority of their money – 80% in total in Nigeria and the region – through their own agencies (for example, development agencies or police forces).

EU funds are much more often spent via multilateral organisations. United Nations agencies (IOM, Unicef, UNHCR, UNODC, ILO) and the intergovernmental thinktank International Centre for Migration Policy Development receive 60% of funds in Nigeria and the region.

NGOs and private parties (such as consultants) received €89m in funds from the EU – about 13% of the total amount. That is more than they receive from European countries – only €36m, or 9% of the total expenditure.

By far the largest implementing agency in Nigeria is the German development agency (GIZ). It is also the main recipient of regional funds that affect Nigeria. We found at least €438m in projects for GIZ in Nigeria and the region.

Another strikingly large player is DAI Europe Ltd, a company which is hired by the UK to stimulate local markets in the Niger delta “to help address the root causes of outward migration”.

Finally, the UN migration organisation (IOM) is a crucial player in the Nigerian migration landscape. They are involved in about 20% of the projects we found in Nigeria. These projects are often aimed at border control – for example, Germany has two projects underway via the IOM to design a data system for the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS). With Dutch money, IOM is setting up a training and knowledge centre for the NIS. And Danish money will be used to introduce a better digital system for customs officers at Nigerian airports.

Is humanitarian aid a migration project?
To put the migration projects in context, we also documented all non-migration-related projects in Nigeria that we could find. That is still a lot more money – almost €4.9bn.

A large part of this, no less than a third, is humanitarian aid. And that’s where it gets interesting.

Some countries regard their humanitarian aid to Nigeria (partly) as a migration project. In the country, €41m in humanitarian aid is labelled as such. The largest EU migration fund in Africa, the EUTF, also includes dozens of humanitarian projects.

But most countries give humanitarian aid to displaced persons or refugees and do not call it migration aid (in Nigeria, at least €90m).

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This discussion may sound trivial – a matter of labels – but it is currently the topic of conversation in the corridors of EU bureaucrats. This is where a new development fund (worth €90bn!) is being set up, 10% of which will be earmarked for “migration” (in the provisional agreement it seems so at least). The question is: what can this pay for? Only “real” migration projects, such as sending migrants home or awareness campaigns? Or also humanitarian aid for refugees?

And what about border control? Is development money allowed to be spent on that?

European countries don’t agree on these questions yet.

Just the beginning …
This update, of course, only touches – forgive the uninspired metaphor – the tip of the European migration iceberg. There are still a lot of questions that we can try to tackle answering with this overview as a starting point.

How much of this money goes to private parties, especially in the area of border control?

Is development aid that was previously spent on other purposes now being rerouted to stop migration? What effect does this have?

Does this money reach the set goals? How do you prove that an employment project in Nigeria leads to less migration to Europe?

Is this approach sustainable in the long term, or will migration become a bargaining chip for African leaders who are looking for European support?

And why are Germans so overwhelmingly present in Nigeria?

We’ll continue to work on this. Are you a researcher yourself? Please let us know if you see opportunities to use our data – we’re curious to hear everyone’s input and results!

This article has been written with the support of the Money Trail project

Source: ICIR

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

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Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

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“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

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FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK

Kelvin

The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.

Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.

Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.

Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.

“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.

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Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

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