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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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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

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“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

READ  63 Nepali, 21 Indians back home via IOM organised voluntary return

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

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UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

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“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

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“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

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Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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