African, EU ministers discuss tackling migrant traffic
Ministers from 13 African and European countries held talks along with the EU on Friday on cracking down on migrant traffickers, with France calling for firmer action on smuggling networks in African countries.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb called on counterparts in the Nigerien capital Niamey to take action "as close as possible to the countries of origin and transit of migrants."
Niger, one of the large nations lying south of the Sahara in West Africa, has become one of the main routes for African migrants heading north to the Mediterranean coast in the hope of crossing to Europe.
The "conference on coordination of the struggle against traffickers of migrants" was attended by ministers from Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, with representatives from France, Germany, Italy and Spain and the European Union.
"Efficiency can be significantly improved through good security cooperation, at national and regional level, among the countries of origin and transit," Nigerien Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum told the meeting in opening remarks.
A draft declaration sets down commitments to tighten legislation to beef up punishment of human traffickers and set up dedicated teams of investigators.
Participants were also expected to boost cooperation among police forces and the judiciary.
Two Africa-EU summits in 2017 put the focus on training police and paramilitary gendarmerie forces, help with conducting border checks and the creation of identity databases.
Europe's part in taking on irregular migration in Africa gained force with "migratory pacts" signed in 2015 in Valetta, capital of Malta, which built on previous accords to reach a global approach dating back to 2006.
One of the challenges, in the eyes of French delegates, is to persuade African countries to agree more readily to provide documents enabling the return of their nationals who lack the required papers.
The French parliament is due in coming months to debate a government bill on immigration, which has already made waves among some supporters of the government who consider the new measure too severe.