VALLETTA (Reuters) - The European Union has offered African states a range of aid as well as easier visa access and lower costs for migrants sending cash home in return for help to curb migration into the EU, including by taking back illegal immigrants.
A 17-page action plan to be agreed by EU and African leaders at a summit on Malta on Thursday, seen by Reuters, sets out dozens of initiatives, many long established, others fresh, for what leaders say should be a partnership to combat the poverty and insecurity driving Africans north and ensure that migration which does take place is safe and beneficial to all involved.
EU officials said the plan had been finalised on Wednesday in negotiations among EU and African officials.
Alongside a commitment to conclude more agreements between EU and African states to expand and accelerate the return of illegal African immigrants from Europe to their home countries, EU governments would offer cooperative African states easier visa access for people to travel to Europe, including for work.
The number of African students and university teachers taking part in an EU-run educational exchange program would be doubled next year from the level in 2014.
The plan also addresses African concerns that curbing migration could crimp remittances from Africans to families back home -- U.N. officials estimate that remittances may provide twice as much to the African economy as official aid.
Acknowledging complaints that Africans are charged too much to send money home -- as much as 10 percent or more in many cases -- the plan commits governments to cutting that cost to below 3 percent by 2030 and encouraging a substantial reduction in transfer costs within five years.
Reporting by Barbara Lewis in Brussels; Writing by Alastair Macdonald in Valletta; Editing by Mark Heinrich