Since 2012, there has been an expansion in arrivals of asylum seekers and immigrants in the European Union, from just below 41 million during that year to the current 100 million.
Instead of limiting the trend, the EU has decided to increase the amount of funding to cope with those arrivals. However, a recent study requested by the LIBE committee in the European Parliament has demonstrated that because of the multiplication of funding sources and modalities, it is almost impossible to assess the success or failure of such funding.
Even for the lapsed period 2014-2020, the study states that “it is not possible to ascertain how much EU funding has been spent in support of asylum, forced displacement and migration outside the EU”. This is rather scandalous. There is no clue in the European Commission’s DG HOME archives and there is neither a publicly available analysis of the range of asylum, forced displacement and migration-related activities supported by the EU external budget.
Consequently, an accurate picture of how much money has been allocated and to which specific activity is unfeasible; hence the title of this article. In the current 2021-2027 period, the possibility of EU funding further expands; but whether relevant oversight mechanisms and safeguards will be applied remains unclear.
In concrete terms, during the period 2014-2020, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) prescribed an initial financial envelope of €3.1 billion, though the overall budget more than doubled that figure, to €7.5 billion; 39% of said amount was managed by the European Commission through its DG HOME, while the remaining 61% was allocated to national programmes.
Of the total budget, the largest contribution was assigned to the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTFA), which received a total of €135 million. Regrettably, the EUTFA has not provided any traceability of funds to projects.
On top of the AMIF, the Internal Security Fund – Borders and Visa (ISF-BV) provided €3 billion during the said period for the control of the external borders. However, up until now the European Commission has not provided any information on its use outside the EU and a very low level of Member States (11 out of 27) have done so, either.
As with the Home Affairs Funds, it is not known how much money the EU spent on asylum and migration activities outside the EU, nor how it was spent through the External Affairs Funds. The study provides an estimated total of €12.4 billion, of which the majority went to Turkey, Africa (through the EUTFA) and Syria.
With regards to Turkey, the objective was to address the crisis created by the situation in Syria, so as to prevent irregular migration flows to the EU. The Muslim country received €3 billion from the EU budget, plus another €3 billion from Member States contributions. However, the Turkish government provided no breakdown of funding allocations.
The European Court of Auditors expressed concerns about the management of funds through the EUTFA, another €3 billion. Supposedly, the help was intended to address the root causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and irregular migration. It would focus on the Sahel region and Lake Chad area, the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the African neighbours of eligible countries.
For the period 2021-2027, the total estimated funds have been increased to an impressive €191.4 billion. Member States have insisted on increasing their oversight and control. So far, effectiveness has been at stake due to the limited number of organisations receiving funding; this is very suspicious.
The study also stresses some dysfunctionalities; for instance, a high potential migration from a country is an incentive for seeking international aid, including from the EU. Another example is the funding of purchase of new boats for the Turkish coastguard at a cost of €30 million, which the government of Turkey could have afforded, without any meaningful monitoring of what impact the provision of those boats had in relation to people on the move.
Still today, the North Africa and Horn of Africa windows have no documented criteria for selecting project proposals. Instead, the European Commission has explained that it takes into account each proposal’s relevance to regional or national strategies, as well as potential implementing partners’ specific expertise and presence on the ground. This sounds rather vague and little convincing.
As late as 2018, the EUTFA continued to have no operational monitoring system. When it finally became operational, the fact that including information was not an obligation meant that not all implementing partners included information. Yet EU money continued to flow and so it does today.