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CAPE VERDE-EU: Oiling the Wheels of Temporary Migration

Mario de Queiroz

LISBON, Jun 12 2008 (IPS) - Under the watchful eye of “Fortress Europe”, the EU has entered into a pilot partnership with Cape Verde based on the “circular migration” model, under which legal migrants are able to move back and forth without major restrictions.

Starting in January 2009, a three-year trial will make it easier for people to move between Cape Verde and several countries in the European bloc, engaging in temporary work.

The project is being coordinated from Lisbon, “and Spain, France and Luxembourg have joined,” the head of the Portuguese Institute for Development Support (IPAD), Manuel Correia, told IPS.

The European Council of Justice and Interior Ministers selected Cape Verde, a former Portuguese island colony off West Africa, and Moldova, which is not an EU member country, for a pilot experiment that will flexibilise the movement of people from other countries into and out of the EU.

A joint declaration on a mobility partnership was signed by the EU and Cape Verde in Luxembourg on Jun. 5.

International economic and social indicators, as well as different reports about democracy and respect for human rights, place Cape Verde ahead of the vast majority of African countries.

This small republic of 4,033 square kilometres and 511,000 people spread out over 10 islands, 640 kilometres from the coast of Senegal, is remarkable for having a similar number of its citizens living abroad. Receptor countries, in descending order, include the United States, Portugal, the Netherlands, Angola, Senegal, Spain, Brazil, Canada, Italy and Germany.

The plan for circular mobility aims to “streamline the migration process, but not to eliminate the need for EU visas for migrants from Cape Verde, nor to establish an extraordinary legalisation process for undocumented migrants,” Correia said.

“The idea is also to provide Cape Verde with well-qualified workers from among its own nationals living in other countries,” said the head of IPAD, saying that, for example, “a Cape Verdean medical specialist working in Europe would be able to go home for a while without having to worry about getting back into the EU.”

Circular migration would enable “better control of the flow of migration, which, as is well-known, includes illegal trafficking and subsequent exploitation of human beings,” he said.

Next week, just before France takes over the EU presidency for the second half of this year, Cape Verdean President Pedro Pires will meet in Paris with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, from whom he hopes to receive solid support for “creating the conditions for legal Cape Verdean migration,” Pires told Portuguese journalists early this month.

Pires will remind Sarkozy of Cape Verde’s cooperation in preventing the islands from being used as a “trampoline” for illegal migrants attempting to reach Europe.

This, together with its favourable ranking in international indicators of human rights and democracy, “has attracted the support of various European countries” for the circular migration experiment to be carried out with Cape Verde, Correia said.

“As for Moldova, I don’t know the details, but I do know that it is a very similar arrangement, adapted to Eastern Europe,” he said, predicting that “the results of this pilot study will no doubt lead to new guidelines” in the field of migration.

The mobility partnership between the EU and Cape Verde “will facilitate circulation of people between their territories, and in the cases of both legal (permanent) migration and temporary circular migration, there could be real cooperation on matters of migration and development, and preventing and fighting illegal migration,” Correia said.

In December 2007, at the end of Portugal’s presidency of the EU, which rotates every six months, the European Council (the heads of state and government of the 27 member countries) recommended seeking dialogue with Cape Verde about a pilot partnership on migration.

The EU and Cape Verde agreed to step up dialogue and cooperation, along the lines of the Global Approach developed by the EU, for improved migration management, which should boost legal (as opposed to undocumented) migration, and strengthen the links between migration and development as well as the fight against trafficking in persons, an EU press release issued the day of the signing ceremony said.

Practical measures in advance of the implementation of the pilot mobility partnership on Jan. 1, 2009 include creating a joint centre in Cidade da Praia, the capital of Cape Verde, which will accept applications for short-stay visas and build Cape Verde’s capacity to manage migration procedures efficiently.

The joint centre will also “implement measures for the information, integration and protection of migrants and returnees, and develop job opportunities both in Cape Verde and abroad,” the EU statement said.

Cape Verde will benefit in particular from the short-stay opportunities for its nationals in EU countries. The remittances they send home will be an important source of income for Cape Verde, where economic activities are mainly limited to tourism.

The EU, for its part, will benefit and burnish its image by having a valuable African ally in the fight against what governments call “illegal” migrants, and activists call “undocumented” migrants.

For the EU private sector, the agreement will mean a flow of relatively cheap workers, on temporary contracts that involve no pension fund obligations, who will accept jobs that European citizens are no longer willing to perform.

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