The EU and Nigeria will discuss a deal to send migrants back to Africa’s most populous country in order to curb migration flows into the union.
The readmission agreement was recently employed between the EU and Turkey, which has dramatically curbed migration flows from the Middle East.
According to Financial Times, the “readmission agreement would probably involve migrants from Nigeria being deported in exchange for EU economic aid for Abuja”.
In the past 16 months, over 25,000 Nigerians have migrated into Italy, one of the 28 countries in the EU, with some more in other European countries.
Figures from the Italian interior ministry show the number of Nigerians arriving has increased 37 per cent this year compared with the same period in 2015.
It would be the bloc’s first major return deal with a sub-Saharan African nation — its only existing one is with tiny island nation Cape Verde.
The EU and Nigeria agreed to “take the necessary steps to launch negotiations” for a deal after meetings in Brussels in March.
The deal with Turkey, as signed earlier in the year, is one in which Ankara agreed to accept the return of migrants landing in Greece — including Syrian refugees — in exchange for benefits, including aid and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
The deal with Turkey, saw the European Union give about $7 billion to the Turkish government, in a bid to return its people to their home country.
Striking a deal with Nigeria has become a focus for EU diplomats after a jump in arrivals of people from the country to Europe since 2014.
While the numbers of Nigerians entering into Europe are just a handful, in comparison to arrivals from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the EU considers the flow of Africans as a long-term structural problem.
Given the population growth trend not just in Nigeria but across West Africa, “these pressures for migration are going to be huge”, the EU diplomat said.
Nigerians are said to arrive Italy via the central Mediterranean from Libya, seeking greener pasture through dangerous means, with many more expected in the days ahead as Nigeria’s population of more than 180m is expected to jump to 300m by 2030.
Nigeria’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment over a potential deal with the EU, but Nigeria may look to the terms secured by Turkey, FT said.