By Alix Kroeger
EU reporter, Brussels
The European Union development commissioner, Louis Michel, is in Mali for talks to set up the EU's first job centre for African migrants.
Last year 6,000 Africans died trying to enter the EU illegally by sea
The idea is to match potential migrants with job offers in sectors like agriculture, building or cleaning.
France and Spain have already pledged to advertise seasonal vacancies there.
It's part of the EU strategy to deal with the increasing flow of migrants from Africa, with other centres planned for Senegal and Mauritania.
Mr Michel is holding talks on the centres with Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure Mali the capital, Bamako.
Last year, 31,000 Africans made the hazardous sea crossing to the Canary Islands to enter the EU illegally, according to figures from the Spanish government. A further 6,000 died trying.
The countries on the EU's southern flank - Italy, Malta and Spain - have been pleading for help.
The EU is stepping up border patrols, both on land and at sea.
But it's also looking at ways of increasing legal migration - both to fill gaps in the European labour market and to reduce the number of migrants trying to enter the EU illegally.
The International Organisation for Migration, which assists migrants and governments around the world, says it's a "constructive step in the right direction."
"You can't manage migration flows by simply having tougher border controls," says IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy. "If you're trying to undercut the people smugglers, the best way is to open up legal opportunities (for migrants)."
The working document on the African centres, obtained by the BBC, says the job centre project will be co-financed by the EU and member states, although it doesn't give any figures.
It says the centres, and matching supply and demand in the labour market, are an "integral part" of the European Commission's "Global Approach on Migration".
Initially the Malian job centre will be in Bamako, but later it will establish regional offices in outlying towns or villages, where migrants begin their journey.
But the idea goes far filling the gaps in the EU labour market. It's also aimed at relieving pressure on the EU by creating opportunities for Africans at home.
The European Commission wants the centre to include a micro credit facility - possibly run by the Grameen Bank, which pioneered the idea of small loans to help people out of poverty by allowing them to set up their own business.
The centre will also help the people who get jobs to get the necessary papers, including visas and residence permits.
"If migrants leave with proper contracts and visas, this makes them less vulnerable to exploitation," says Mr Chauzy. It also means they're likely to earn better wages and have more money to send home to help their families.
But while Mali may welcome the centre, others are less enthusiastic.
"This is very strange, even a bit crazy" says centre-right Polish MEP Jacek Protasiewicz, author of a report in the European Parliament on the discrimination faced by workers from the post-Communist countries which joined the EU in 2004.
"The first thing the European Commission should do is to diminish barriers for the free movement of workers from within the EU, and then open job centres in other parts of the globe," he says.
Even now, people from countries like Poland, Slovakia and Lithuania - as well as Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU this year - can't work freely in all EU member states.
"Many millions of Poles, Lithuanians, Romanians (and others) would be happy to have low-skilled jobs in agriculture within the EU," he adds.
But for Mali, as for many African countries, the brain drain is a serious problem.
It isn't just the low-skilled who are leaving: it's the doctors, the engineers and the IT specialists, even if some of them up end up working in jobs far below their qualifications.
"Ways of facilitating circular and temporary migration will be explored," says the working document on the job centres.
For example, a surgeon from Mali could work in the EU for a month or two a year, earn extra money, perhaps acquire some new skills and put those to use at home.
"Someone who's worked for a few years in the EU may have accumulated some capital and can identify opportunities in their country of origin where that capital can be invested and create wealth," says Mr Chauzy.
Remittances from migrants represent the biggest flow of money into many developing countries.
If some of that money can be invested to create jobs - rather than just helping families survive from one day to the next - it could make some potential African migrants think again about risking their savings and their lives on a dangerous journey to Europe and an uncertain future.
Do you think this initiative is a good idea? Is it a form of migration control? Will it stem the flow of illegal migrants? What should be done to create jobs in Africa? Would you apply for a job given the chance? Are you or your family migrant workers?
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I applaud the EU's decision to experiment with new ways to resolve these issues of illegal immigration. However, these job centres appear to me to be a "Europe wins, Africa loses," solution. The best way to solve these migration problems would be to improve living conditions in the countries from which people are migrating. If their countries had half the opportunities that they believe Europe has for them, then they would not be so desperate to leave.
Rebecca Longstreth, Washington DC
To some extend it will control but it is not along term solution. The long term solution lies in establishing a good political and social environment which is conducive to well being of Africans. Look what is happening in Zimbabwe people are suffering because of this mad man and for as long as the world lives in denial of the political and social atmosphere then it is bound to fail
rodreck tapiwa, botsawna gaborone
It is a very good idea. It will increase the mutual understanding between Africans and Europeans. It is one of the right ways to say bye bye to injustice in the world where the westerners are oppressing other parts of the world including Africa to live more comfortable. I pray that the idea will work well and open more doors to other better ideas. We are equal in the world. I am looking forward to when Africans will not need visa to travel to the west.
Adigun Olosun, Ostbevern, Germany(Nigerian)
The fact that thousands of people are willing to risk the dangerous journey to enter the EU illegally in hope for a better life, only to find that there are no jobs available, clearly indicates that these job centres are the only way forward to not only reduce illegal migration, but to save lives too.
Sneha Kotecha, London
It looks foolish. I think the first step would be to legalise the status of illegal migrants already here in Europe especially in the UK before talking of bringing in new people. But then suppressing and sanctioning African Governments who have refused to make life comfortable for their people would be another step in the right direction otherwise people who are hungry and thirsty for food and justice would always want to move out of African by all means.
Okumephuna Chukwunwike, London, United Kingdom
The economy of many African countries is very low, that is why Africans search for the abroad employment. The main solution is to increase eduction centres to expand the knowledge to Africans. They will employ themselves using their natural resources available.
Tuntufye.J.Mwakatika, Dar es salaam - tanzania
This is a very discriminatory idea, what makes the owner of the idea think that, a migrant from Africa is inferior? I am a multilinguist immigrant from black Africa with not than 4 professional qualifications. To be modest, I have not seen my mates, in terms of qualifications in my environment in the last couple of years! Thousands of professionals in various areas of human activities are in my country home with nothing tangible to do as a result of one problem or the other. Black Africans given the right opportunities excel in various spheres of human endeavours in countries like England, Sweden, France and Germany. Now, uprisings we have in Black Africa are caused by what? Condy the great lady has what type of human background? Wole soyinka is a prof of letters or what? late Awojobi left a mark that was buried! Prof Chinua Achebe is still living!! The list is endless, the economy of Spain and Ireland today has how many nucleic blacks? This idea of creating a job centre is to me a simple xenophobic project! Allow qualified blacks to move around and accept the difference! America and Canada are examples for us to see!!!!!!!!!!
OMOKOGBOH AKIN, Fougères, France
Europe should cut its agricultural subsidies so that African farmers can develop a market for their produce. This would provide more viable economies/employment in African countries and provide European consumers with cheaper produce/out of season produce. A win/win surely.
karen, brisbane australia
Well at the very least it's a good sign that the Europeans are at long last learning to get real. The best border control is less income disparity. Now they just have to extend this reasoning to their trade rules because then they won't even have to bother with the job centres in Mali. People will happily stay at home if they can earn a decent living there.
Amoroso Gombe, Nairobi, Kenya
Given the enormous disparity between the economies of Europe and Central Africa, the incentives for migration are likely to remain high for many years. So, we are unlikely to stop illegal migration completely. Creating a legal channel for migrants to seek opportunities in Europe is a step in the right direction, but we need to provide an accessible and consistent mechanism for gaining access to Europe. Possibly something like a 3 year non-renewable working visa. This would allow people to work for a reasonable period before returning home, and should encourage wealth transfer. It would, however, need to be matched by a more rigorous Europe wide policy of prompt deportation for illegal migrants and those who overstay their three year term.
Keith , London, UK.
The initiative is of course a good idea, because it'll, at least, ease the illegal flow Africans migrants in search of better opportunities in the European soil. From my point of view, however, the solutions depends mainly on the creation of sustainable employment at home. Anyone who has got everything at home doesn't disturb his neighbour.
Leonel Muchano, Maputo/Mozambique
I think it is a welcome idea positve move for youths in Africa based on the fact that African leaders are self centred and are never reformed despite the amount of exposures they come across with there European counterparts. i guess it may serve as an eye opener to them. but dont be surprise that they the african leaders will sabbotarge the effort. but however i wish those of you who continue to fight to seek avenues to better the african nations the best kudos.
prince. o., lagos nigeria
I cannot believe some people will say this is a great idea!Do Africans really think the EU member countries will seek to hire someone from Africa than seek a similar candidate with same qualifications from a EU nation state! No offense meant here - but how many of such institutions have been created in easten Europe to stop the influx of illegal immigration from Easten Europe?. As stated in the US constitution, every human family has one goal in life "the pursuit of happiness". It is unfortunate that African Leaders and dictators have conspired to root the continent of its wealth. The simple solution to illegal immigration is to create an environment for economic prosperity where every human family can pursue this hapiness. This can be done right in Africa and will keep Africans in their homeland.
Sapel, Dallas, Texas
I think that in order to stop the illegal migrants e u has to get tough and send home not keep giving in and letting people stay as this sends back a message that we are weak and wont deport.. we should also fix the corruption in these countries instead of pouring money into corrupt leaders pockets so they can buy expensive toys for themselves. We go to war when it suits us but we stand by and watch the mess in africa ....Because we wont get anything out of sorting out that mess. Our government has to be consistant with its messages
helen hossack, edinburgh
With regimes such as the one in Zimbabwe it is understandable why masses of people flee their homeland. If the international community addresses the consequences of natural calamities, so should they act towards the corrupt, incompetent and brutal governments who are at the root of the problem. Drastic regulations should also be enforced towards international companies who shamelessly take advantage of the situation. Other western companies have tried implanting businesses and factories in less developed African countries, with great difficulty due to cultural differences such as work discipline, absenteeism, etc¿ I and other African professionals working and living abroad in western countries are reluctant to return and settle back with our family in our country of origin because of the prevailing chaos, danger, and social pressures.
Daniel Bonmariage, Luxembourg
I personally think that this is a great idea, but all great ideas have downsides. first of all i thank God that at lease there is some sort of thought towards Africans sufferings especially those who never make it through the Mediterranean, secondly its funny how Africans are so poor (when in fact we were kings). If we lived in a moral world people would be immigrating to Africa. imaging English , Americans etc swimming to get to Africa and Africans shutting their borders. I think right now any solution is better than nothing for my brothers and sisters here in Africa.
Abdi Mohammed, Somalia
I think this is a great idea. Living close to the U.S.-Mexico border, which has similar problems to the Spain/Africa area, shows that increased enforcement doesn't solve any problems, nor does it dissuade many people from making the journey, even if they know the dangers involved. Policy needs to be centered not only on the host country, but around problems in the sending countries that leave people no other option than undocumented immigration. I think the idea of a job centre, which would help regulate incoming migrants, will also open the EU's eyes to some of the source problems, as is reflected in the possibility of offering micro-loans.
Mariana Padias, Tucson, Arizona, USA
You can never solve a problem at the head where the root is still very fattered, creating jobs in mali and senegal will never solve the problem, to my last suggestion l made on this programe , the Eu should make an alliance or agreement with Africa leaders on creating jobs and helping the individual who have a vision of travelling accomplish this to them. African environment and European Union environment differs, they need to be there to see and get empowered through the system.
richard paul, Edo State,Nigeria
What Africa needs is not job centers for European markets. Jobs should be created in Africa so that the brain drain is stemed. The Job centers only makes it worse by increasing the urge to flee Africa.
Eremugo, Heidelberg, Germany
I think this is a very good idea because it should help stop illegal migrants being caught in the poverty trap. Plus it stop employers expoliting those who are forced to work illegally.
With all due respect, creating a job centre in some African countries, will be like the aid that the West dishes out to African countries which 60% of it are always used to pay Western consultants, and Western companies that provides either the goods or services which the aid are meant for, then 30% will be stashed away to Western banks by corrupt officials and the leaders while the balance 10% will be used for the aids and publicity. if the EU and indeed the entire western nation want to help Africa to stop illegal migrants from flooding their countries, they should help them to do something like marshal plan in African by building massive road networks, modern rail system, above all uninterrupted power supply, in fact with all these in place Africans will do the rest by providing jobs, abundant foods, etc for Africans, and i assure you no African will want to migrate to any EU nation illegally, Anything less will be efforts in futility.
Patrick Amaefule, Utrecht, The Netherlands
people dont only migrate because of Economic reasons. The bad governace and dictatorship style leadership in Africa, which gives no opportunity to the Youths. If you dont have the political connection, even if you are a graduate their is little chance of getting a Job.
Abubakarr Fofanah, Sydney, Australia
1) surely creating a legal way for people from Africa to work in Europe will reduce the number of illegal attempts to work here. At least the legal system will be able to offer realistic expectations to candidates. This will certainly reduce illegal attempts. 2) all ex-colonial countries should stop the theft of Africa's natural resources and invest in non-exploiting and ecologically safe production capability to trigger correct industrial activity in Africa. Amongst others, alternative energy production has tremendous possibilities in Africa 3) Europe should play a major roll in re-foresting drying-out parts of Africa. And why not tackle the desert also - it can be done! Not only will Africa benefit from such schemes, they would also help to slow down global warming. Re-foresting is the most simple answer available against global warming (Europe should also do something about re-foresting within Europe, perhaps with the help of African migrant workers?)
Guido, Antwerp, Belgium
This is a good beginning to dealing with the immigration problem. Setting job centers for African migrants in Africa would of course not yield immediate results but would be a beginning for a system that would help end the brain drain in Africa. These job centers (I believe there is going to be more than one eventually) would act as one stop informational hubs that would better educate the African people about the reality of the job market in these countries. Opportunities in Europe or America are not necessarily better than those in Africa. There has been a lot of elite Africans leaving their home countries and doing very odd jobs abroad¿for the rest of their lives. These job centers would give them a better understanding of what is out there.
We as Africans also need to start looking to the future and try to solve our own problems instead of running away from them. The root cause for the majority of Africa's problems is how balkanized Africa is. The East African Federation is a step in the right direction toward rectifying some of these problems. Can you imagine a united Africa¿an instant superpower.
Fred Higiro, Kigali, Rwanda
Its yet another ludicrous idea from the EU, and will inevitably not work. Illegal immigrants arent going to stop coming to Europe from Africa, if they cant get a job in their local EU funded Mali job centre. If someone is willing to leave their home country and get on a dangerous boat journey, they will do that with a job or not. What the EU needs to do is improve border controls so it is not possible for these illegal immigrants to arrive like this in the first place. The EU like the UN has shown they are incapable with dealing with the problems in Africa, because they only use half hearted meaasures and never tacle the real problems of crual dictators like Muagabe and his gang of fellow corrupt African leaders.
Jon Clarke, Melbourne, Australia
Migration (legal or illegal) can never be stopped. It is a natural phenomenon, and Humans are migratory in nature. People (whether from Africa or someother continent) would always seek a greener pasture if they are not satisfied with their present conditions. The conditions might not necessarily be jobs.
Tolu, London, UK
This is a commendable move! It is way of informing the rest of the world that the African countries if provided with opportunities and incentives can utilise their resources to help fight poverty, disease and ignorance by exporting skilled and unskilled manpower which are in abundance. The European Union(EU) should ideally partner with the African Union(AU) in this programme.
Njau Gitu, Gold Coast, Australia ( Originaly Kenyan)
At long last - a creative and risk-taking idea coming out of the EU bureaucrats to solve a serious problem. Definitely worth giving it a go.
Richard, Cambridge UK
It is unlikely that this initiative will bring some significant benefits to either EU or Africa. Most of the migrants that EU would prefer will be the well skilled ones that are probably already better off where they are. On the other side, the ones that are in direr need will probably fail the EU criteria and slip into the trafficking web again. This will not reduce the number of poor migrants washed on the EU shores, nor would benefit the local African communities anyhow. Africa needs serous development projects (accompanied with preferential trade deals)-not another resource-drain.
Igor Cvetkovski, Geneva, Switzerland
I think involving the Grameen Bank or a similar financial institution to give micro-credit loans to future migrants in their own country is the best answer to move people out of poverty and into a more decent lifestyle where they can cater to their families needs. Even though most people think it is better in the west no matter what, compared to life in Africa, it is not easy. It is far easier to make it at home than it is here in the west and you don't have to put up with discrimination.
Dr. Anaman, Canada
I think this is a completely barmy idea. I don't think it will slow down illegal immigration at all it will merely give aspiring African migrants two alternatives. If they don't succeed through the legal route they will still come on the boats. I envision more immigrants not less.
I think the answer lies in the EU leasing a large territory of land in Africa and returning migrants whose homelands won't accept them back to there.
Sarah Howard, Boston/London
It is a bold and may be naive initiative that should be tried and further tailored to meet the many needs of both continents.
It would be preferable if UNDP and ILO were hosting such initiatives and took lessons to serve all poor member countries with organized decent employment opportunities abroad.
Ole Wagner Smitt, Copenhagen Denmark
It is the free market policy that the west preaches at such fora as the World Trade Organisation. If the jobs are available and the economies back home are in better shape, the feeling of hopelessness will be elimnated. The thing to promote global growth is to also promote growth and development back in the African countries. The west must sanction those in their countries and the officials that pilfer the peoples wealth through coruption in Africa. It is a good plan.
Victor Obanon, Nigeria
This is a bad idea. If there are unemployed in Europe, they need to take these low paying jobs first before they get paid social security and unemployment benefits. Further, this is a slap in the face for the new members of the EU who are forbidden to travel across Europe to find work.
Job centres won't stop many young people from heading to the EU. While migration from Africa should be seen as an African-EU crisis, the greater responsibility should be on African nations, who should find ways to absorb the young into the national economies and encourage those of us already living in the West to return and help start businesses.
I live a relatively comfortable life in the US--where I'm paid a fair wage for my labor--but I'd go back to my homeland of Kenya tomorrow if wages in that country were improved and more respect was shown to those who have paid thousands of dollars to get degrees in the West. As things stand now, Kenyan officials actually encourage the young to leave the country. And many do.
Henry Gekonde, Durham, NH, USA
YEAH I HOPE THE WESTERN WORLD IS REALISING THAT AFRICANS NEED ACTUALLY.JUST AS I AM HERE IN CAMEROON PLANNING TO GET MY WAY TO THE ONE OF EU COUNTRIES,IF EU STICK TO THEY IDEA, I DONT SEE ANY NEED TRAVELING OUT. I WILL RATHER FIND A JOB IN ONE THEIR SECTOR. I HOPE IT WILL WORKOUT.
AZU SOLOMON, MAROUA CAMEROON
Best thing for creating jobs in Africa- Promote Transparency in Public and Private sectors. This would lead to better organization which may be the missing link for Africa in the land, labor, capital, organization prerequisites for production.
William Ellis, Washington DC - USA
I've always felt that instead of destablizing poor countries,why not invest in the country(not like the world bank -(DEBT SLAVERY)Try fair and just -microbusiness loans.
Gigi Richardson, New York City,N.Y U.S.A
The only way to cope with illegal immigration from Africa into Europe is to suppress and suppress the dictators in Africa and create more jobs for the local masses.
Ntobo Valentine, Bamenda, Cameroon
Many Africans have been trying to escape to European countries, simply because most of the African leaders are not sensitive to their economic plights.
Samuel, Ibadan, Nigeria
This should be open to all African countries, because it will create another hazard of people travelling from other countries to go to may be Mali where only this service is set up. There should a website for all Africans to apply and selection should be balanced.
Nulu Nakitto, Manchester
I don't think this is a solution for the illegal African immigrants as the whole of Africa (excepting some countries) is poverty stricken. Africans travel from places as far as Bangui (central Africa) to the towns bordering Spain to enter the EU. So opening up job centres in Mali or Senegal will be of little importance.
Prem T Vazirani, Libreville, Gabon
Mr Protasiewicz seems to forget that Poland is at the moment suffering from a shortage on the labour market since most of our low skilled workers emigrated to the UK or Ireland. I am outraged that my country's politicians can't look further than the end of their own nose.
Joanna Bernacka, Poznan, Poland
Protasiewicz is spot on here - people from new EU countries like myself are running away from the blight of corruption, unemployment and economic and social mismanagement just like the Africans. And - no offence to those trying to swim across the Mediterranean - surely EU members should have priority over those that live outside of it?
Karol Tyszka, Poznan, Poland/Leeds, UK
The EU should not stop in north/west Africa let them also come down to east Africa.
Jane, Kampala, Uganda
What happens if an African diaspora wants to go back home and create job opportunities in his country by opening up a project and job opportunities to qualified and low skilled people back home? Will he have any assistance from the EU community or IOM? I have the intention of doing this next year so I need to be clear about this.
Oumar Camara, Menen, Belgium
This is a piecemeal measure and nothing short of leaving Africans dependent. I think that any policy making by the EU in immigration has to take development, human rights/minority rights, conflict resolution, democracy and the rule of law on board. Let's not forget that, like Europeans, Africans will prefer to stay in their home countries if they are guaranteed a stable economic, political and social life style as do the Europeans (after all it remains an irony why Africans should be poor).This can be realised if Europe can end its discriminatory trade policy towards developing countries and stop playing politics with African chronic dictators.
Emmanuel Yunji, Brussels
I think that this is a great step in the right direction. I know that this is not the ultimate answer, but I think that this is better than just shutting down borders. I think that this solution works both sides of the problem, even if it is small now, if it works, then I'm sure they will expand it. The U.S. could take a lot from the EU's example.
Kim P, Washington, DC, USA
This idea though good will not stop the brain drain Africa is facing. Creating jobs in Africa is a good start but there is more to it to persuade people not to migrate. Provision of better social services, better working conditions and eliminating political and religious suppression are amongst those things that would reduce the urge to migrate.
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leonean in USA