Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 6 November 2017

Why is the EU-Khartoum Process so wrong on so many levels


By Amgad Fareid Eltayeb

Since 2014, the European Union (EU) has been pushing its anti-migration agenda through its initiative that came to be known as Khartoum Process. The initiative started with EU representatives forcing themselves on a low-level African Union Regional Conference that took place in Khartoum in October 2014, aiming at the creation of a collaborative approach to tackle human trafficking and people smuggling in the region; an objective that is not a priority for those countries at the time. However, the surprising but very welcomed engagement of the EU made it a serious event, in which 15 African countries committed to help Europe in stopping the flow of refugees to its promised lands; for a worthy price, of course, since nothing is cheap nowadays.

Eagerly and quickly, and due to some typical African conflict over which country should take the diplomatic merit, EU prepared another meeting in Rome in November of the same year to sign what have been called (Rome Declaration). Rome Declaration officially launched the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative or Khartoum Process in which European Countries agreed to assist the States affected by human trafficking and migrant smuggling between the Horn of Africa and Europe "through concrete actions, in a spirit of partnership, shared responsibility and cooperation". Obviously, the whole thing was designed to manage and decrease what have become unwelcomed “burden” of humanitarian refugees to Europe but however, documents shall always state that the white man is the one who is providing assistance!. Well, there was a Rome Treaty that established the EU zone and Rome Declaration on World Food Security and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and maybe it was a suitable time for the right wing to express some of its fascistic notions in a modern Rome Declaration-ing way.

The official extended version of the initiative’s name (EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative) was more accurate in pointing to the underlining real objectives of the process. It is not about fighting human trafficking or smuggling, these would be side dishes for the main course; which is stopping migration (actually Refuging) from Horn of Africa. Khartoum Process is another eloquent name for it. Europe was not shying from moving to using oppressive regimes like the one of Khartoum to guard its borders against the influx of black people to its lands. EU chose to ignore the simple clear fact that the oppression of the Khartoum and Khartoum-like regimes are the drivers for those Dreamers to risk their lives attempting to flee.

EU keeping its eyes firmly fixed on the prize, created in 2015 “The EU emergency Trust Fund for Africa” to fund the operations/incentives of its Khartoum Process. It was supposedly created to address the root causes of irregular/illegal migration (terms that are being increasingly used nowadays to shadow the real nature and description of humanitarian asylum). Resources were theoretically assigned for the creation of jobs, economic development, vocational training and creation of micro and small enterprises. As well, for promoting stability and governance under the same regimes that pushed refugees to seek refuge; no matter how ironically that is. Millions of Euros were distributed to the EU partners’ countries in Africa to do the job. Sudan alone received over 215 Million Euros from this trust fund by April 2017, in addition to other unilateral grants from individual EU countries like Germany and Italy that took forms of security training and monitoring equipment in some incidences. Sudan as a major passage route for refugees from the Horn of Africa received most of EU attention in this initiative. However, on the practical translation of the abstract of Khartoum Process, it was literally about using the oppressive tools of African regimes for the benefit of Europe.

In Sudan, the regime assigned the duty of protecting the borders to its infamous presidential militia, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The RSF is a restructured layout of the Janjaweed Militias that continued to fuel the humanitarian tragedies of Darfur conflict since 2003. The RSF in its new assembly under the leadership of its notorious leader Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, AKA Hemeti was under the command of the security apparatus but was placed later under the sole command of president Bashir alone. Members of the militia enjoy full impunity and are not legally bound to answer to anyone but the ICC indicted Sudan’s President Omar El-Bashir according to the Sudanese legal framework, making them exercise absolute authority with no legal boundaries. UN referred to the RSF several times as one major factor of instability in Darfur in addition to its criminal reputation everywhere in Sudan. Bashir publically announced that he formally tasked the RSF with the borders control duties. Hemiti bragged several times in the media about the role of his militia in protecting Europe. He went as far as to demand a ransom in the form of monitoring equipment and drones or he will open the borders to the asylum seekers. The RSF is very well-known for its brutal treatment of civilians, and this brutality is now extended to refugees and asylum seekers in the borders for the sake of implementing Europe agenda. EU continued to deny all accusations of directly funding the RSF while acknowledging supporting Sudan’s efforts to combat illegal migration and human trafficking. Efforts that are publically known to be implemented by the RSF. The only remaining solid fact from this dilemma is that EU is ultimately hiring a paralegal and criminal militia to achieve its interests.

What is happening in Sudan’s borders is not only violating the rights of the refugees and asylum seeker to enjoy better situations and seek protection, but it is constructed in a way that intentionally leaves them an easy prey for a notorious and criminal militia. It was smart indeed, of Khartoum regime who is desperate to prove its legitimacy to the world to force EU countries into sitting a blind eye to the crimes of the RSF by tasking it to serve EU’s interests. No matter how unprincipled that is, EU seems accepting it. As a reality of course, hence according to EU, international law and treaties seems to be only fitting in protecting free trade and opening new markets but has no place of consideration in addressing humanitarian issues.

This refuging blockade is a clear violation of the international law according to the 1951 Geneva Convention. However, it is not the only violation. The post World War 2 convention and its related protocols decide three options as Durable Solutions for refugees; voluntary repatriation; local integration; and third country resettlement. There is no order of preference between these solutions but the general rule of thumb that refugees themselves need to be part of the decision process in order to give the solution the best chance of success. This is based on the basic concept that these solutions are not charitable but are rights of refugees. Refugees are not criminals nor incompetent victims and should not be treated so. They are agents of rights. They are people with full legal capacity who are outside their country of origin and who are UNABLE OR UNWILLING to return there because of a well-founded fear of persecution. Thus, repatriation is only considered when its choice is made voluntarily by the refugee, free from coercion, and based on objective information. Refugees should be returning to “conditions of physical, legal and material safety, with full restoration of national protection as the ultimate end, ensures that return takes place in safety and with dignity and that it is sustainable”. This does not seem to be the case in the new pushed-south borders of Europe.

Reportedly, Sudan’s RSF tend to detain refugees and asylum seekers, labelling them as criminal illegal migrants. Accordingly, they face imprisonment time and then forcibly deported to their countries without any further consideration. Hundreds of Eritreans are being arrested on charges of illegal entry -that should be waived in the cases of refugees even in accordance with the Sudanese laws- paying a fine, and spend prison time before deported back to Eritrea where they face eminent, deep and profound hazards. This is not only a violation of the international law but it is practically sending people – including minors- to their graves. In contrast, any Eritrean who manage to reach the promised lands of Europe is granted the asylum rights, mostly as a general rule. EU countries need to show its commitment to the international law on its lands, so their solution is to violate it somewhere else. It seems that Europe has managed to push its borders souther, where it has borders control forces who can do the job, no questions asked, and no unneeded commitment to the law. Incentives for perfectly doing the job were shamelessly asked for by RSF and Khartoum regime. In early 2017, The RSF commander publically estimated that his troops arrested over 1500 migrants in their way to Europe in 2016, demanding for lifting sanctions imposed against Sudan for human rights violations as a price for this. No one cared to explain to this blockhead that this accounts for 1500 humanitarian crimes.

Furthermore, the hegemonic centres of policy-making are tampering with the discourse in order to create a new reality in which refugees rights are not rights anymore. The Intentional deliberate mix-up between the humanitarian asylum and refuging with the organized crimes and human trafficking and smuggling is projected to criminalize refugees and asylum seekers. Fighting such crimes would be by allowing clear, accessible, and apparent ways of refuging and asylum instead of leaving those fleeing profound dangers to risk their lives in smuggling routes. Similarly, terms like illegal/irregular migration are increasingly replacing the reference to asylum and refuge. This stigmatization is feeding the populist notions and the politics of fear that are becoming the handy tools of politics in the west in our time. Additionally, more confusion is created by good-looking, bad-substance terms like “host communities”, which in worse sense perceive refugees as parasites. No matter how good are the intentions behind such terms, it results in distancing refugees in the public perception of their real identity as agents of rights, humiliate their dignity and humanity and breach their rights as fully eligible human beings.

It is not deniable that Europe is facing a growing problem trying to accommodate (or to avoid) the increasing numbers of refugees from the global south, but the current securitization of the border is not the answer. Those risking their life with smugglers or by crossing the Mediterranean in a fishing boat will not mind taking a further risk to avoid RSF’s guns. People die once, so increasing the risk of them will not push them back since they are already risking their lives. It will only increases their anger, disappointment and seed hatred in their hearts.

There are two important facts to remember in addressing this. The first is that drivers of migration and seeking refuge are political in their roots. Thus attempts to create micro-businesses or fund grass-root development within the same environments in which corruption, mismanagement and oppression prevail will not work. Economic hardships and difficult life are classical symptoms of dictatorships that will continue to exist with the existence of its causative factor. Let alone, the human rights violations, which are the cardinal signs of these regimes. Attempting to deal with these problems without addressing its political context would be like imaging that you could treat a patient with cancer by relieving his headache while ignoring the spreading of the disease in his body, and dealing with the autocratic regimes would be like encouraging cancer to spread more. Europe cannot simply ignore over 300 years of slavery and colonization, which interrupted the historical developments of the societies and contributed to the deformed structure of the post-colonization states in the global south. EU cannot complain about the migration crisis out of its context. Human beings in Africa and Asia and other parts of the world deserve to enjoy democracy, human rights, civil state and rule of law just like Westerns.

The second thing is that the whole system of asylum and refuging in the west has been abused but those abused it are not the ones whom EU is trying to stop in borders of Sudan, Libya and Egypt. The privileged class that can easily go to Europe through legal visas that checks their backgrounds and the amount of money in their bank accounts were the abusers. Many of them decide to stay with justifications that are not entirely real if not entirely fabricated. European migration frameworks are to be blamed for that, for not looking deep enough, while committing its practice to solutions from mid previous century. Europe was exhausted from providing to the wrong people so it decided to punish the right ones not only by not standing to its commitments but making their lives more miserable. It is not only the domestic remedies of Asylum in Europe that need to be updated but maybe the international 1951 convention needs revisiting as well.

Lastly, the most dangerous consequence of the Khartoum Process for stopping migration in the way that it is implemented now is encouraging the growth of hate culture. For the sake preventing refugees to seek safe heavens in Europe, EU is dealing with regimes that oppress people in their home countries. Therefore, people cannot run and cannot hide. They are been asked to stay still and just suffer while their oppressors are growing the strength to prevent them from fleeing. You would not expect those people to develop any feeling but profound anger and disappointment. In the world of today, this situation will be the greatest environment for the growth of radicalization and extremism. Which another problem created by continuing feeding the beast.

Dr Amgad Fareid Eltayeb can be reached at amjedfarid@gmail.com

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