Under the banner of “externalisation”, the EU is currently trying to shift the responsibility and enforcement of migration policy rules and restrictions to third countries.

The European approach:

Includes cooperation with third countries in border management and migration issues

Aims to curb irregular migration

Includes providing support with infrastructure issues as well as financial aid and logistics

Sub-Saharan Africa

as a new “Hotspot”

in Migration Policy

At present, the EU is increasingly focusing on cooperation with African countries. In countries such as Niger, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal, the EU is trying to implement policies for development and security on site, in order to reduce the pressure of migration. In addition to training security forces and providing financial and material aid, the active fight against the human trafficking industry is crucial.

Niger, 2019: Chancellor Angela Merkel visited a police unit trained by the EU (EUCAP mission) during her 2019 trip to Africa. © picture alliance, REUTERS, Andreas Rinke
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, EU Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at a Summit in Brussels in 2016 celebrating the EU-Turkey Declaration.
© picture alliance, AA, Dursun Aydemir

The EU-Turkey


“A Prime Example”

of a Cooperation?

The EU–Turkey Declaration, also known as the EU–Turkey Deal, was reached on March 18, 2016. It was one of the first instances of an EU cooperation with a third country with regards to large scale immigration since 2015. The long term aim of the EU was to close the Eastern Route via Turkey and the Aegean Sea. This agreement with Turkey is based on the following premises:

accommodation for refugees from Syria

repatriation of refugees who:
a) do not need international protection, and
b) have migrated irregularly from Turkey to Greece

extension of the Turkish Border Guard

In return, the EU has promised the following:

payments of 3 billion Euros, later increased to 6 billion Euros

prospect of relaxing visa restrictions for Turkish citizens

At the end of February 2020, the Turkish government sought to trigger mass migration through the land border of Greece. The Greek border guard prevented the situation from escalating. The agreement from 2016 remains in the interest of both sides.



“Run-Up Combat”

and Outsourcing

Under the banner of “externalisation”, the EU is currently trying to shift the responsibility and enforcement
of migration policy controls and restrictions to third
countries. The European approach:

includes cooperation with third countries in border management and migration issues

aims to curb irregular migration

includes providing support with infrastructure issues
as well as financial aid and logistics.





Since the 1980s proposals for the establishment of reception centers for refugees outside of the EU have been discussed. These centers should serve to accelerate asylum procedures, as well as facilitate the return of failed asylum-seekers. But until today they have not yet been implemented.

“Now more than ever, we need common, european solutions on migration. We are ready to support Member States and third countries in better cooperating on disembarkation of those rescued at sea. But for this to work immediately on the ground, we need to be united – not just now, but also in the long run. We need to work towards sustainable solutions.”

Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, 24.07.2018

Possible locations for regional disembarkation arrangements, European Commission 2018
Reception centres
Boats with the rescued
EU waters
Third country waters
Disembarkation in non-EU countries, European Commission 2018



Repatriation without examining individual claims for protection is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

International maritime law must be respected.

National law and general human rights apply in the centres.

Political Debate

Return to third countries outside of the EU and examination of rights to protection there
PROBLEM: no uniform asylum system within the EU

“Regulated centres” in EU member states
PROBLEM: no standardised distribution of refugees within the EU

“Disembarkation” to third countries without examination of rights to protection
PROBLEM: controversial legal basis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the EU Africa summit 2017, © picture alliance, REUTERS, POOL
Syrian refugee camp in the outskirts of Athens © Unsplash, Julie Ricard


and Discussion

legal uncertainties

no clear definition of “safe countries of origin”

rejection by the relative countries for fear of a pull-effect, security problems and social tensions


Preventive/proactive measures: humanitarian aid, increase of protective measures, etc

Creation of legal migrant and refugee routes

Cooperation by sharing responsibilities

Humanitarian aid on-site © piture alliance, AP Photo, Hannibal Hanschke

EU Cooperation

with Libya:

“Run-Up Combat”

in Practice

The situation in Libya is extremely difficult for the EU, as Libya currently cannot be seen as a well functioning state.

Since the fall of long-term dictator Gaddafi in 2011, the civil war-torn country has been one of the most important countries of transit for refugees on their way to Europe. The Tripoli-based National Government, officially recognised by the EU and the international community, is the first point of contact when it comes to the containment of those who are considered a flight risk and the taking back of refugees. At the same time, Libya, supported by EU states, has strengthened its border protection and expanded its coast guard service.

Government of National Accord
Pro-GNA militias
LNA and local allies
Libyan National Army
Amazigh militias
Tuareg militias
Tebu militias
Islamic State
Primary routes
Secondary routes
Destination centres
Major departures point
General Haftar’s advance
Libya 2018: The map shows the territorial fragmentation of the civil war-torn country, as well as the position of the detention centres, European Council on Foreign Relations 2018
Refugees awaiting their fate in a detention center in Libya. © picture alliance, REUTERS, Ismail Zitouny

the following

parameters determine

the situation in Libya

Fragmentation of the country into several zones, each dominated either by one of the two governments or by militias or local clans

Gaddafi’s former General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army troops (LNA) advance on Tripolis

Constant migratory pressure primarily from the south,
despite tighter border control

The war in Libya has become even more of an international proxy war: more and more global powers have intervened and supported one of the warring factions.

Situation of

Human Rights:

Detention Centres

and Militias

As part of the externalisation efforts, a number of detention centers have been set up in Libya, both along the coast and in the interior. These detention centers are used to detain refugees who were intercepted while fleeing and are not allowed to continue their journey. Massive violations of human rights occur frequently here. In addition to the generally poor conditions in the camps, the refugees there are left mostly unprotected and often suffer mistreatments by security guards and militias, such as rape, blackmail, torture and human trafficking. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) there were at least 3,200 people staying in such camps by the end of 2020. Particularly insidious is the practice of blackmail and ill-treatment, which serves as a profitable business model to squeeze money from the relatives of the refugees in exchange for their lives.