EU aid increasingly used to curb migration – Oxfam

- Published:
- Short URL:

EU development aid is increasingly being spent to close borders, stifle migration and return migrants to Africa, according to a new report published today by Oxfam. As a result, aid is diverted from its true purpose of helping those in need, often making the situation worse for the people it should be supporting.

Oxfam analysed the allocation of funding from the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) which was set up in 2015 to address the root causes of migration in some of the poorest and unstable countries in Africa. The report reveals that over a €1 billion of funds intended for poverty reduction and long-term development were allocated by EU member states to domestic policies to curb migration, such as enhanced border controls and increased returns of migrants.

Oxfam’s EU migration policy advisor Raphael Shilhav said: “European governments seem determined to prevent migration at any cost. They are putting short-term wins over strategies that work in the long run, at the expense of those most in need.

“The EU needs to stop undermining its own values. Development aid is meant to fight poverty, inequality, and the growing climate crisis and it should not be politicised.”

Oxfam warns that when development policy is tied to domestic European objectives, it undermines resilience, economic development, and human mobility that could all help improve the lives of people in Africa. The international agency found that just €56m (£47m) of the EUTF is allocated to fund regular migration schemes, representing less than 1.5 percent of the total fund.

Shilhav said: “Many projects do more harm than good by actively hindering migration instead of acknowledging its benefits. When people have the option to travel and work, it improves innovation, economic growth, development, and resilience against risks.”

In several countries, the integration of migration politics into EU policies has been counterproductive. The EU’s short-sighted cooperation with and funding for authorities in Libya, for example, is fuelling human trafficking and the arbitrary detention of refugees in horrific and dangerous conditions.

In the countries of the Sahel, European pressure to prevent people from leaving their homes has not taken the repeated droughts and destabilising security situation into account and aid has been spent on preventing people from relocating.

In Niger, EU pressure to change laws and policies has led to a reduction in the community’s ability to make a living, and migration control efforts have undermined resilience and the communities’ trust in their leaders.

Under the EUTF, development aid is also increasingly being used as leverage to pressure African countries to cooperate with European demands to combat migration.

The political aim of curbing migration is also limiting the ability of EU diplomats to push governments on issues such as democracy and human rights. As EU governments choose to rely on foreign administrations to improve control over borders and returns, they lose the legitimacy to work with them on improving respect for human rights.

These worrying trends in the EUTF are set to become mainstream development policy with the next EU long-term budget, the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), which will define EU policies for the next seven years.

Oxfam is calling on the EU institutions and member states to review the implementation of the EUTF for Africa to ensure that it falls in line with EU’s development and humanitarian objectives, and make sure that the current flaws are not repeated.


For more information, a copy of the report, or to arrange an interview with our Brussels contacts:
Sofia Hansen, in Brussels, on: +32 2 234 11 15 / mobile: +32 473 56 22 60 or email:

Notes to editors:
Download the report: EU Trust Fund for Africa: Trapped between aid policy and migration politics

The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) was launched in 2015, when African and European heads of state and government met in Valletta to agree a common approach to addressing migration. The EUTF was designed to pool financial resources from member states, the European Development Fund, and from across the EU budget to create a flexible funding mechanism focused around the following priorities:

  1. address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement
    2. enhance cooperation on legal migration and mobility
    3. reinforce the protection of migrants and asylum seekers
    4. prevent and fight irregular migration, migrant smuggling and human trafficking
    5. work more closely to improve cooperation on return, readmission and reintegration.

Press contact

For comments, interviews, or information please contact Sarah Dransfield (Senior Press Officer):