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Accueil > Communiqués > Les retours forcés, le cas du Mali / Forced returns, the case of Mali [en (...)
Les retours forcés, le cas du Mali / Forced returns, the case of Mali [en anglais]

Article paru dans la revue du parlement européen (Buxelles)
European Social Watch report- 8 December 2009

Ousmane Diarra
Association Malienne des Expulsés (AME)6

Mali : A country of emigration, immigration, transit and return

Historically and geographically, Mali is an important
crossroads for civilisations and migration. Mali is at
the same time a country of emigration, immigration,
transit and return.

It is estimated that around one-third of the
Malian population, that is four million people, live
outside the country, of which more than half reside
in other West African countries. A large number
of undocumented Malian migrants in Europe are
being confronted with the current strengthening of
European immigration policies. The Malian authorities
pay significant attention to migrants’ financial
contributions to the country in the form of remittances
and to their support of development in their
locality of origin. Created in 2004, the Ministry for
Malians Abroad and African Integration (MMEIA ) was
designed to address the needs of Malians abroad
and to make them more aware of their potential role
in the country’s development.

In recent years, Mali has also become an
important country of transit for Sub-Saharan
migrants on their way to the West African coast
(Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Gambia and Guinea
Bissau), to Maghreb, and across the Mediterranean
to Europe.

Mali is also a country of return, frequently
receiving Malian and other Sub-Saharan immigrants
expelled from Europe, Maghreb countries
of transit, or from war-stricken African countries.

Migrants blocked in transit are either escorted to the
Malian border (with Mauritania, Algeria or Lybia) and
abandoned in the middle of the desert, or sent back
by plane tied down and muzzled. Malians subject to
involuntary return describe massive raids, degrading
treatment and long periods of detention with the
prospect of a forced return to their home country,
often with no money.

Situation of migrant returnees

Public concern about the issue of migrant expulsion
is very acute in Malian society. Migrants’ countries of
return often lack appropriate structures for receiving
migrants who have been forced to return. They also
lack mechanisms for protecting the rights of returned
migrants. Organisations supporting migrants have
documented a large number of human rights violations
on which they base advocacy efforts and
judicial complaints. Explorative missions are carried
out by Malian civil society organisation, often in
collaboration with international solidarity organisations,
in order to record the reality of forced returns
at borders7. Their reports reveal the criminalisation of
migrants in transit, flagrant violations of the integrity
and dignity of migrants expelled on mass, arbitrary
imprisonment, inhumane conditions during transportation
and abandonment in the desert.

It is worth noting that the EU policy for controlling
migration flows does not foresee centres of assistance
for expelled migrants at the borders, nor are
any international NGOs active in these border zones.
The voluntary associations trying to assist returned
migrants lack both the capacity and resources to
fulfil the task. At the same time, the EU has financed
the establishment of detention centres in countries
such as Lybia and Mauritania for detaining illegal
immigrants prior to their forced return. These centres
are part the EU’s strategy of ‘outsourcing’ immigration
control outside of EU borders.

The General Delegation of Malians Abroad
(DGME), whose mission includes the assistance,
protection and promotion of Malians abroad, has an
office at the airport of Bamako for the administrative
and technical assistance of voluntary and involuntary
returned migrants. The arrival of airplanes
containing returned immigrants is supervised by
civil protection, in collaboration with the Malian Red
Cross. However, this is only the case during so-called
‘urgent procedures’, i.e., when the authorities are
informed in advance, which is rarely the case. Involuntary
returned migrants often arrive home after
several years of absence utterly destitute. Most of
them come from rural areas and have no family in
Bamako. A number of Malian civil society associations,
with limited resources, are active in providing
accommodation, medical care, legal assistance and
financial help to return migrants to their home region.
No official aid is given to these vulnerable people.

Current challenges in Mali

In view of the risks of illegal immigration (including
expulsion), the Malian authorities try to stem
migratory flows by promoting education and employment
opportunities in Mali, and by negotiating agreements
on the concerted management of migratory
flows. In 2008, the Ministry for Malians Abroad and
African Integration, in partnership with the International
Organization for Migration (IOM ) and various
associations supporting returned migrants, carried
out a national awareness campaign on the dangers
of illegal immigration.

Financed by the EU, a Migration Information
and Management Centre (CIGEM) was inaugurated
in Bamako in October 2009. The creation of CIGEM
is part of the EU’s ‘Global Approach to Migration’
launched in 2005 ; CIGEM works to promote the
linking of migration with the development needs
of migrants’ countries of origin and encourages
collaboration with migrants’ countries of origin
and transit in the management of migration flows.
CIGEM ’s activities include the definition of a national
migration governance policy, the promotion of a
codevelopment approach8, the promotion of legal
migration schemes, and the fight against illegal
immigration through awareness campaigns and the
orientation of candidates for migration towards work
and education opportunities at home.

The above initiatives in favour of legal immigration
clearly reflect the EU and its partner countries’
political will to put an end to illegal immigration. The
incentives offered to potential migrants to remain in
Mali and the mass expulsion of illegal migrants from
transit countries and countries of destination are
both sides of the same coin. They are part of the EU’s
self-interested strategy of ‘chosen immigration’.
For example, the incentives offered by
European countries for ‘voluntary return’ are poor
and underfinanced. Migrants blocked in transit are
not assured of being taken care of upon their return,
while expelled migrants are not eligible for any ‘reintegration’
programme financed by the EU. Migrant
associations also plead for the return of property and
contributions to the social security system from the
former country of residence. Some people reclaim up
to 22 years of social contributions.

It is in this context that the cautious position
of the Malian authorities in the negotiation of the
agreement with France on the concerted management
of migratory flows must be situated. On the
one hand, they appreciate the contribution of Malian
emigrants to Mali’s national development, but on
the other hand, they depend on EU development aid,
which is increasingly becoming conditional on the
adoption of agreements on the concerted management
of migratory flows. How long the wrangle will
last is unknown. The global economic crisis and its
consequences have reaffirmed Mali’s concerns. The
crisis has been accompanied by cuts in EU development
aid. The labour market contraction is also
spurring tougher restrictions on migration, which
affects the capacity of migrants to send remittances.
Tougher immigration restrictions often imply human
rights violations, but are ineffective in stopping illegal
immigration : people still put their lives at risk to reach
Europe, at any cost. 

— -

6 Translated from French by Louisa Vogiazides.

7 AME carried out an exploratory mission at Mali’s border
with Algeria together with the Afrique Magazine in 2007
and with Apdha (Spain) at the border with Mauritania in

8 Codevelopment is a trend of thought and development
strategy in development studies that considers migrants
to be a developing factor for their countries of origin.

jeudi 12 novembre 2009

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