Aid to deter irregular migration ‘some way’ from making an impact

10 Mar 17

UK-funded aid projects to address irregular migration through the central Mediterranean are not yet effective, the country’s aid watchdog has warned.

 

In a report issued today, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact said there was a risk that some of the programmes could even cause harm to vulnerable migrants.

Irregular migration is that in which migrants avoid legal channels and use clandestine and often dangerous means to reach Europe.

The UK is backing of number of initiative to address this issue, specifically a jobs compact in Ethiopia, which aims to create 30,000 roles for refugees as part of a larger work creation scheme for host communities.

ICAI said this scheme had the potential to be successful and could make a positive impact.

“However, we are concerned that some UK aid programmes have unhelpfully been re-labelled as ‘migration-related’, when there is little evidence they will reduce irregular migration,” said Alison Evans, ICAI’s chief commissioner, who led the review.

“We are also concerned about the risk of unintended harm to vulnerable migrants, particularly in difficult operating contexts such as Libya, and we have urged the government to do more to identify and manage these risks.

“UK aid’s focus on irregular migration is in its early stages but, at the moment, our review found it is some distance from making a measurable impact in the central Mediterranean.”

ICAI is recommending that the UK government avoids labelling projects as “migration-related” unless they target specific groups with a known propensity to migrate irregularly.

There should also be greater investment in improving monitoring and evaluation in this complex area, the watchdog said. 

Commenting on the report, Marta Foresti, managing director at UK think-tank the Overseas Development Institute, said that while it is encouraging that the UK is stepping up its support to vulnerable migrants and refugees, ICAI has made clear the risks involved, especially when the drivers of migration are not fully understood. 

"The aid that is currently being directed at reducing irregular migration has the potential to make a difference but only if it is tailored to the realities that migrants and refugees face," she said.

"Recent ODI research has found that some Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia may decide to stay in the region and not make their way to Europe if they can access legal and meaningful jobs. There is a real risk aid is seen as a silver bullet that resolves irregular migration to Europe, but our research shows this will not be achieved without expanding legal pathways to better manage migration."

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