Better migration management: Safer migration in the Horn of Africa

An interview with Martin Weiss, GIZ


There has been criticism that the EU and also your work in the Better Migration Management Programme ultimately just want to keep refugees out of Europe and claims have been made that the work is primarily only designed to secure borders. What is your response to that?  

Our programme, which we are carrying out for the EU and the German Government, is not about restricting migration. Quite the contrary: Our aim is to ensure that migration becomes safer for people within the Horn of Africa. Our work is essentially about creating prospects for people – in their home countries, but also in countries that host migrants. Our programme seeks to improve migration management in the Horn of Africa. This involves addressing human trafficking and smuggling, strengthening migrants’ rights and protecting them from violence and exploitation. Over nine million displaced people are currently on the move within the Horn of Africa – the majority have found refuge elsewhere in their country of origin, but a quarter of them have crossed into a neighbouring country. Our programme is not about securing or controlling borders; our task is to support migrants.

The intention sounds good, but implementation seems to be extremely complex. Does a programme like this stand any chance of being successful in the short term? 

Yes, our work in eight countries is very challenging. Nevertheless, we are seeing some initial success: For example, we are helping to improve health care for migrants in Djibouti, where more than 100,000 women, men and children arrive each year. The climatic conditions and the exhausting journey mean that some are in an extremely poor state of health on arrival, so it is good to know the new health station we have built in Obock can now provide sound basic care. Mobile health teams are also operating in all regions of the country, looking after migrants along the major routes leading to the Gulf States and Ethiopia.

In Sudan, we have trained border officials to give first aid and we will continue to train them to identify migrants who need help or who are victims of human traffickers and smugglers – either so they can provide direct assistance themselves or refer them to services that can.

Our work relies on African countries being willing to take action themselves to counter human trafficking and smuggling. This situation has provided us with an opportunity to strengthen cooperation among the countries in the Horn of Africa, a region that really needs everyone to work together to protect migrants and put a stop to human traffickers and smugglers.  

Experts primarily criticise the cooperation with Eritrea and Sudan – regimes that are accused of human rights violations. How do you ensure that support goes to the right places?

We always check very carefully who we are working with. Our project staff support implementation very closely – particularly in key countries like Sudan. Furthermore, we have also drafted some strict principles and regulations specifically for the Better Migration Management Programme to prohibit both the involvement of undesired stakeholders in project activities and the procurement of critical equipment. That’s because one thing is clear: human rights come first. We do not strengthen autocratic structures. No money goes to the governments of the countries we work in.

All the activities are implemented through us or our partners. They include international organisations such as the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the British Council and Expertise France. But we also work with national and international non-governmental organisations on the ground. This is a problem we can only solve by working together. Our guiding principles, which of course require us to observe human rights, are binding for all our implementation partners and thus apply to all our activities.


June 2018

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