European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his State of Union speech, where he announced an Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs between Europe and Africa. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

Last month, president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker proposed a new program that would aim to bolster economic growth in Africa as part of the European Union’s (EU) efforts to reduce irregular migration. Such a measure stands in contrast to others taken in recent years where, for example, Italy worked to stem the flow of migrants—with EU backing—by engaging local intermediaries, who have allegedly paid armed groups to cease smuggling. Avoiding the extreme flows of migrants as experienced in 2015 remains a top concern irrespective of the measures employed, not least to contain the rising tide of populism rooted in anti-migrant sentiment in Europe.

Three years ago, over one million people arrived irregularly in Europe. By 2016, the number had dropped to 382,000 and fell again in 2017 to approximately 186,000. This overall downward trend is largely due to fewer migrants and refugees taking the Eastern Mediterranean Route from Turkey to Greece, mostly as a result of the European Union’s intensified migration cooperation with Turkey and the near closure of Western Balkans Route. As a result, the Central Mediterranean Route, largely from Libya to Italy, has become the main gateway into Europe. The last two years have also seen a revival of the Western Mediterranean Route, mostly from Morocco to Spain. Between the Central and Western Mediterranean routes, the majority of recent migrants and refugees to the EU are from North, East, and West Africa. Read more