Migration policy in Chad: In the middle, on the edge

More people are seeking refuge in Chad than trying to emigrate. This is why the country has received less focused attention from the EU so far, despite its central location.

Refugees from Nigeria in Camp Baga Sola in Chad Foto: dpa

The Republic of Chad, which has been independent from the former colonial power of France since 11 August 1960, holds no specific bilateral agreement on migration with France and/or the EU at present. However, most recently, the Republic of Chad is also becoming involved in the EU's efforts toward migration control at the borders of the Sahel, as well as on the national borders of Libya.

When Chad gained independence as a state, the French Republic and the Republic of Chad signed an agreement that comprised the central African country's entry into the Multilateral Convention, a multilateral agreement on the basic rights of the members of states in the French-speaking community. On the basis of the Convention, members of these contracting party states enjoyed the effective freedom to settle within the borders of France.

Beginning 10 March 1961, this agreement was valid for members of all French ex-colonies in Africa, excluding only the Republic of Guinea, which was to be “punished“ for political reasons. The agreement guaranteed them freedom to enter the country as long as they carried a carte d’identité – a form of personal identification – or a passport, even if the passport had expired up to five years earlier. Furthermore, members of these relevant states were guaranteed access to all employment positions on French soil, even in public service.

When compulsory possession of a residence permit and a work permit became established law in France, via two simple ministerial ordinances (from the ministries of labour and the interior) starting on 30 November 1974, the French Republic unilaterally put an end to the previous legal status. In the same time period, the agreements with the African Francophone states in question began to be renegotiated. Incidentally, just prior to this in 1973, Chad, for its part, had already announced its revocation of the multilateral convention from 22 June 1960.

In Chad's case, this phase led to a complete elimination of all special distinctions for citizens of Chad, in a shift to the “general“ law for national foreigners, which had already been issued as significantly more restrictive. This was not the case for all former French colonies in Africa.

Minimal migration to the EU

On 6 March 1976, several new co-operation agreements between the French Republic and the Republic of Chad were signed, all of which took effect in 1978. From then on, citizens of Chad in France lived juristically under the “normal“ law on national foreigners. At first, in a transitional phase, the previous regulations that had been more favourable to entry and settlement still applied to Chad nationals. After January 1981, however, they definitely fell under the “usual“ foreign national law, which is still the case today. More favorable regulations that deviate from the norm, such as those in France for citizens of the Cameroon, do not exist.

The European Union (EU), for its part, has not reached any specific agreement with the Republic of Chad on the subject of migration. The issue still has an influence on common bilateral co-operation. One reason for this could be that migration by Chad nationals to the EU has been minimal in numbers to date. Statistics from 2016 from the European office Eurostat count 50 to 80 asylum applicants from Chad per month for the entire EU.

The European Union (EU), for its part, has not reached any specific agreement with the Republic of Chad on the subject of migration, although the issue still influences general bilateral co-operation. One reason for this could be that migration by Chad nationals to the EU has been minimal in numbers to date. Statistics for 2016 from the European office Eurostat count 50 to 80 asylum applicants per month from Chad for the entire EU.

In France, the National Court of Asylum – the court of appeal for asylum procedures – issued decisions on 108 cases from Chad nationals in all of 2013, out of a total of 38,540 decisions. Of these 108 asylum applications, the court of appeals approved only 17; the rate of rejection stood at 84 percent. Visa applications of all kinds submitted to the French consulate in Chad numbered 4,568 overall in the year 2010 and 4,417 overall in 2011. Where numbers are concerned, therefore, the country is not a “marked“ migrant country of origin.

The EU's collaboration with Chad, which was financed in the period from 2008 to 2013 in the amount of €328 million from the European Development Fund, EDF, officially focused mainly on the following points: Constructing a transparent justice system, “good government leadership“ and improved transparence in the financial administration; improvement to living conditions, primarily for the rural population; better provision of food supplies; better provision of health services. In the inspection reports for the EDF, however, remarks on the subject of “migration movements“ can also be found, such as those in Appendix XII of the annual report for 2003.

Focus on neighbour countries

Represented by its authoritarian president, Idriss Déby Itno, who has held office since 1990, the Republic of Chad took part in the summit between the EU and African states in the Maltese capital of Valletta. Yet the country does not appear on the list of those states to whom preferential “partnerships“ or “pacts“ on migration control were to be offered in the framework of the so-called Valletta Process, such as Niger and Nigeria – two countries that directly border on Chad – as well as tSenegal, Mali and Ethiopia, plus Jordan and Libya with regard to refugees from Syria.

Chad is a founding member of the so-called “Sahel G5“ group of states in the Sahel zone. The group was founded on 16 February 2014 in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott. A summit of the G5 group took place on 20 November 2015 in Chad's capital N’Djamena; the UN High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini, also took part. On this occasion, the issues of “areas of security policy, of border administration, migration, counterterrorism, as well as the prevention of (Note: Islamic) radicalism“, among others, were defined as topics for a “regional coordination“, as well as for the “co-operation between Sahel G5 and the European Union“.

On 19 May 2016, the EU Commission presented 20 new actions to benefit stability and combat the underlying causes of illegal migration in the entire Sahel region. These were to be financed by the EU Trust Fund for Africa that had been launched at the Valletta summit, for a total amount of €280 million. Chad was not listed as a specific target country; however, eight of the actions affect the “Lake Chad Basin“, which is bordered by Niger, Nigeria and the Cameroon as well as Chad, with a focus upon “combatting the Boko Haram sect“.

Police of the Sahel zone

On 13 June 2016 the EU Commission in Brussels outlined a further “six actions“ for the Sahel area for which total costs to the Africa Trust Fund were estimated at €146 million. The following trans-national goals were listed: “managing/controlling migration movements, combatting human trafficking“ as well as the favouring of “return and reintegration“. Additionally, at a cost totaling €41.6 million, trans-national “robust, flexible, mobile and interdisciplinary“ police units – bearing the French acronym GAR-SI Sahel, which stands for “Rapid Action Groups for Surveillance and Intervention“ were to be established. As specific expenditures for Chad, moreover, €10.3 million were earmarked for vocational integration for young Chadians “with poor or non-existent school education“.

Precedents for these actions could be evidenced in a response by the German government on 13 July 2016 in the Bundestag to a minor interpellation from the Bündnis 90/Green Party lobby, titled, “Measures for Chad“ in the context of the Valletta Process, such as employment policy “around Lake Chad“ with financing in the amount of €27 million. From the side of the German federal government, promotional policy measures were specified on the one hand, (€20 million for the livestock farming sector), and on the other hand, a programme to manage the impacts of the crisis in the bordering Central African Republic (€12 million) as well as “security and counterterrorism“ (€8 million).

On 17 June 2016 , EU Representative Mogherini and the foreign ministers of the Sahel G5 countries met with the press in Brussels. Together with Chadian Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat, Mogherini held a specific press conference in this context. The goals cited by Ms. Mogherini were “development, the creation of jobs – especially for young people – but also, counterterrorism and the fight against human trafficking (and) illegal migration“. At the occasion of the joint press conference, Mogherini went into further detail on EU missions in Mali and in Niger, however, in regards to Chad, she spoke of “the control and management of the borders in the South of Libya“ as the task of urgent priority, also in regards to dealing with “waves of migration passing through Libya“.

More engagement

The Chad regime, for its part, is calling for collaboration from the European side “to curb the influx of migrants toward Europe“, as formulated by the authoritarian President Idriss Déby Itno on 12 October 2016 in Berlin – where he was visiting at the invitation of Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. On this occasion, Déby claimed that the EU should seek “broader solutions with all the Sahel states“ instead of favouring only “bilateral agreements with Mali or Niger“.

This could, and should, be understood as a call to involve his country more intensely than before in multilateral efforts toward migration control. In any case, up until now, Chad has played a minor role in this matter, compared to Niger, Mali or Senegal. One reason for this may lie in the fact that the number of Chadian citizens living or arriving in Europe is relatively small, while at the same time, the country is more of a refuge and receiving location than an exit country for refugees.

Due to the conflicts in neighbouring countries and regions such as the Sudan (Darfur) and especially in the Central African Republic, Chad is currently hosting about 700,000 refugees. In this context, Federal Chancellor Merkel met with authorities in N’Djamena in October 2016 and approved €8.9 million in aid money. From the standpoint of the EU powers, their primary concern is that refugees from the Sudan and Central African Republic will be able to find reception and support in their neighbour country of Chad, but will not hit upon the idea of moving on toward Europe.

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