The European Commission’s leader, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, have introduced a proposal for a €210m collaboration with Mauritania aimed at reducing illegal immigration to the Canary Islands and initiating new energy and infrastructure initiatives that will benefit both parties.
Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, is soon releasing figures that are anticipated to reveal a significant increase in the number of individuals who are risking their lives by embarking on the dangerous voyage from West African coasts to the Spanish islands within the past year.
EU leaders convened with President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of Mauritania on Thursday morning to deliberate on matters of security, migration, and stability in the Sahel region.
Von der Leyen praised Ghazouani for the assistance his nation is providing to 150,000 refugees. She also promised to provide humanitarian aid as part of the agreement that they plan to finalize in the spring.
She also declared that she will provide funding for a fresh high-voltage power connection between the main city and the southeastern region of the nation, as well as enhanced road infrastructure to the northern region. This is where Mauritania plans to enhance their wind, solar, and hydrogen energy resources in collaboration with the European Union.
Furthermore, the speaker stated that there would also be assistance in training defense forces to aid in border security with Mali. She emphasized the importance of Mauritania’s role in maintaining stability in the Sahel region, which is currently facing a precarious situation.
The EU has shown interest in bolstering security in west Africa, where China and Russia have traditionally used investments in infrastructure to gain influence. France’s presence in countries like Mali and Burkina Faso is perceived to have diminished significantly.
Sánchez stated that Mauritania has a significant impact as a democratic example for promoting stability in the Sahel region, which is crucial for both Spain and Europe. This is due to the downfall of democratic governments, increase in terrorist attacks, rise in refugees and internally displaced persons, and the exacerbation of an already severe food security crisis in the region.
In October of last year, the EU and Ghazouani collaborated to pave the way for a partnership with Mauritania. This plan involves foreign investment to aid in Mauritania’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and is supported by the European Investment Bank.
Von der Leyen discussed the various “cynical traps” that could ensnare migrants and refugees, labeling the Atlantic route for human trafficking as “extremely hazardous”.
The country in West Africa, as well as its neighboring country to the south, Senegal, serves as a major starting point for numerous individuals attempting to reach the Canaries. Reports indicate that this route is currently the most heavily used by human traffickers who entice travelers to embark on dangerous trips to the EU.
According to the Spanish interior ministry, there was an increase in the number of people smuggled across the 900-mile stretch of water in January. In 2023, there were 566 individuals, while in the same month this year, there were 7,270 people.
Sánchez stated that he will focus on enhancing the current cooperation regarding border control between the two nations and “examine potential options to facilitate legal migration.”