Europe spends billions stopping migration. Good luck figuring out where the money actually goes

In October 2016 RFI, the French news agency wrote

Merkel pleads for Africa’s development to stem migrant flow

German Chancellor Angela Merkel kicked off the second leg of her African trip in Niger on Monday, pledging more support for the continent. Her three-day tour, which began yesterday in Mali and ends on Tuesday in Ethiopia, is designed to stem the flow of migrants fleeing Africa and, in so doing, repair her reputation at home.

Two years in, Reuters in October of 2018: Merkel looks to Africa to cement a legacy shaped by migration

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged on Tuesday a new development fund to tackle unemployment in Africa, a problem spurring the mass migration that has shaped her long premiership as it nears its end.

As recently as Nov. 2019 “Germany’s Merkel urges more investment in Africa“.

However, “two years after its launch, experts say the compact has failed to reassure investors”.

Just failed to reassure or is there more than just a lack of reassurance? Turns out, it is neither. It is rather one Big Swamp according to three intrepid journos from Nigeria, Italy and the Netherlands. They began asking themselves:

How much money exactly does Europe spend trying to curb migration from Nigeria? And what’s it used for? We tried to find out, but Europe certainly doesn’t make it easy. These flashy graphics show you just how complicated the funding is.

That’s how their article

Europe spends billions stopping migration. Good luck figuring out where the money actually goes


In a shiny new factory in the Benin forest, a woman named Blessing slices pineapples into rings. Hundreds of miles away, at a remote border post in the Sahara, Abubakar scans travellers’ fingerprints. And in village squares across Nigeria, Usman performs his theatre show about the dangers of travelling to Europe.

What do all these people have in common?

All their lives are touched by the billions of euros European governments spend in an effort to curb migration from Africa.

Since the summer of 2015, when countless boats full of migrants began arriving on the shores of Greece and Italy, Europe has increased migration spending by billions. And much of this money is being spent in Africa. The EU finances migration projects in at least 26 African countries, particularly in west, east and north Africa.

Within Europe, the political left and right have very different ways of framing the potential benefits of that funding. Those on the left say migration spending not only provides Africans with better opportunities in their home countries but also reduces migrant deaths in the Mediterranean. Those on the right say migration spending discourages Africans from making the perilous journey to Europe.

They dug deeper, trying to understand where the money went and how much.

While working on this article, we spoke to researchers and officials who characterised EU migration spending as “opaque”, “unclear” and “chaotic”. We combed through countless websites, official documents, annual reports and budgets, and we submitted freedom of information requests  in a number of European countries, in Nigeria, and to the European commission. And we discovered that the subject of migration, while not exactly cloak-and-dagger stuff, is apparently sensitive enough that most people preferred to speak off the record. We only included anonymous quotes when they were supported by documentation or by at least two other interviews.

Above all, we were troubled by the fact that no one seems to have a clear overview of European migration budgets – and by how painfully characteristic this is of European migration policy as a whole.

Africa being a huge continent, they concentrated their efforts on just one country, Nigeria.

Nigeria – ‘a tough cookie’

It wasn’t long before we realised that mapping out all European cash flows to all African countries would take us years. Instead, we decided to focus on Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s strongest economy, as well as the country of origin of the largest group of African asylum seekers in the EU. “A tough cookie” in the words of one senior EU official, but also “our most important migration partner in the coming years”.

Do read the whole piece at The Correspondent. It is, and nobody in his right mind would expect anything else from the EU, mind-boggling.