IOM Welcomes Intercontinental Agreement to Manage African Migration to Europe

International and Regional Cooperation, Missing Migrants

Switzerland - A roadmap to manage African migration to Europe, developed at an intercontinental summit in Malta between member states from the EU and Africa, has been welcomed by IOM’s Director General William Lacy Swing.

“The focus has been on saving migrant lives in the Mediterranean, but now, in addition, a joint commitment has emerged to tackle the underlying reasons so many people are on the move,” Ambassador Swing said.

“These include an arc of war from Africa to Asia that brings insecurity to communities, as well as crippling poverty and the undeniable impact of climate change that makes it ever harder for people to survive and thrive.”

The summit deliberations, at which Ambassador Swing was present, delivered a political declaration and an Action Plan to be backed up by an EU Trust Fund for Africa. At its heart the plan seeks to restore stability in migration by addressing the root causes of why so many people take the fateful decision to join the migratory route north.

The summit also expressed deep concern at the suffering, abuse and exploitation suffered by women and children, and “the unacceptable loss of life in the desert or at sea.”

Europe has seen an unprecedented number of arrivals this year, with 800,000 crossing by the dangerous sea routes with the help of smugglers. Along with the hardship to migrants and refugees, this is causing political strains between and within countries.

The inclusion in the Valletta summit political declaration that voluntary return is the preferred option over forced returns for those migrants who have no legal options to remain in Europe is welcomed by IOM.

IOM advocates strongly that when people are returned it should be, whenever possible, on the basis of free choice, carried out with dignity and include reintegration support upon arrival home.

During all-night negotiations between the EU and African states delegations saw intense focus on the issue of returns. The final accord saw both sides agree “to give preference to voluntary return and reaffirm that all returns must be carried out in full respect of human rights and human dignity.”

“The Malta decisions are a promising start on what will be a long road,” Ambassador Swing said. “They focus on a series of measures aimed at tackling the root causes of migration, which we very much welcome.”

The summit also recognized that there are “benefits of well-managed migration and mobility” between the two continents and that there is a shared responsibility of countries of origin, transit and destination to work together.

An important part of that work is “preventing and fighting migrant smuggling, eradicating trafficking in human beings” – both areas of concern to IOM, which has consistently advocated for a more concerted response.

“This has been a historic summit in many respects,” Ambassador Swing said. “It took place in Malta, where Africa and Europe meet and where so much of the history of the two continents was forged.”

“We hope the agreement hammered out here in a spirit of compromise leads to improvements in the lives of migrants, especially those who put themselves at such risk in crossing the Mediterranean.”

For further information contact Leonard Doyle at IOM HQ, Email:, Tel. +41 79 2857123.

Italian coastguard rescues migrants and refugees bound for Italy (File photo). © Francesco Malavolta/IOM