Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has laid bare the glaring double standard in the European response to refugees fleeing wars. Refugees and migrants from non-European countries, particularly those from the Global South (Africa, Asia, Middle East), face racial discrimination and xenophobic attacks while fleeing wars to bordering European countries. The stark differential response can partially be attributed to the country of origin of the asylums seekers. African Union and African leaders have strongly condemned the discriminatory treatment of African migrants and asylum seekers by European countries.
Such a discriminatory approach in European migration governance does not bode well with the Joint Vision 2030 that the recent Sixth African Union-European Union Summit in Brussels on 17-18 February 2022 sets out. The Joint Vision pledges a renewed and deeper AU-EU partnership, including migration and mobility. However, with the recent discriminatory response of European states to African migrants, the pledges of the Joint Vision look more distant. The need for a paradigm shift from pledges to implementation becomes urgent. Given that the attention is diverted to the situation in Ukraine, realizing these shifts require new thinking, resources and political will on the side of Europe.
How can warm words be turned into deeds? One way is to think about how the AU-EU agenda exemplifies tensions and some opportunities in the Africa-Europe partnership. But, crucially, to realize these opportunities requires new thinking and political will to raise the agenda given the attention of leadership and resources are diverted to the situation in Ukraine.