BAMAKO, MALI - Mali said Monday will not help the European Union identify and return illegal Malian migrants to the country. Ongoing talks on the issue are part of larger efforts by the EU to curb migration via cooperation with key countries of origin, a strategy that resulted in a multi-million-dollar deal with Niger earlier this month.
In Mali, negotiations on facilitating migrant returns have caused a stir, following terms of the proposed deal detailing the presence of civil servants in Europe to help authorities identify Malians who are there illegally.
The government's main concern is the safety and well-being of Malians abroad, Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop told reporters Monday in Bamako. He said civil servants traveling to Europe to identify migrants who have had their asylum requests rejected is out of the question.
The EU is currently negotiating a $160 million deal with Mali to expedite the return of migrants to the African country. The talks cover a number of areas, including providing funds to help with job creation and with assistance in stopping smugglers. The negotiations are the most detailed yet between Brussels and an African country.
Diop said no deal has been reached, and negotiations will continue.
The two parties plan to work to create jobs for young Malians, while Malian authorities plan to issue identity cards and biometric passports to help track migrants. So far, the EU has reached agreements with a handful of African countries, including Sudan and Mali's neighbor, Niger.
EU border agency Frontex has estimated that more than 10,000 Malians have entered the bloc since the start of 2015. This month, Algeria rounded up and deported 260 Malians.