The UK’s aid response to irregular migration in the central Mediterranean

UK aid interventions designed to address irregular migration through the central Mediterranean are currently some distance from making a measurable impact, a new review has found.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) – which scrutinises taxpayer-funded UK aid – also warned that there is a risk that some programmes supported by UK aid in the region could cause unintended harm to vulnerable migrants.

ICAI’s review – The UK’s aid response to irregular migration in the central Mediterranean – said the government was scaling up efforts to provide humanitarian support, protection to migrants, or to tackle the root causes of irregular migration, but was at an early stage of determining how aid could reduce irregular migration into Europe.

The review found some of the new initiatives, specifically the upcoming Jobs Compact in Ethiopia which aims to create 30,000 jobs for refugees as part of much larger job creation for host communities, had the potential to be successful.

But it said in some cases existing aid programming in the broad field of economic development had been unhelpfully re-labelled as ‘migration-related’ when there was insufficient evidence about how it would impact migration, including work in the energy sector, the extractives industry and national financial governance.

And the review warned that the risk that some UK aid could cause unintended harm to vulnerable migrants, or prevent refugees from reaching a place of safety, had been inadequately assessed. This risk was particularly pronounced in Libya, where the UK government provides support to the coastguard and detention authorities.

The review highlighted significant evidence gaps on what influences migration decisions, and praised the UK government’s investment in research and evidence-collection in these areas.

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10 Mar 2017
Lead commissioner
Alison Evans
Beyond aid