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Reaching out to migrants - 02/10/2008

Gate of the migration centre in Bamako, Mali

First immigration centre outside EU borders ready to start work.

Every year thousands of Africans try to make the perilous journey to Europe as illegal migrants. Often their quest for a better life ends in a tragedy at sea.

Raising awareness of the risks of illegal migration is one of the tasks of the new centre in Bamako français, the capital of the West African nation of Mali. An information point for would-be migrants, the centre offers guidance on legal immigration and helps with job training and the search for work abroad.

Mali is a prime candidate for the pilot project. The country is a transit point for migrants heading to Europe and an important source of labour for neighbouring countries. Some 4 million Malians live abroad, a huge exodus considering there are just 12 million in all. Most are scattered around West Africa, but about 200 000 live in Europe.

Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries. The main industry is farming, with cotton the biggest cash crop. The country depends heavily on the money migrants send home, but a big part of this income is eaten up by bank transfer fees. The centre is studying proposals to lower these transaction costs.

The centre is also working with returning migrants to help them resume life in their home country. Most migrants are young men who can’t find work at home. They are gone anywhere from a few months to several years at a time, leaving women, children and the elderly to run family farms.

Europe is home to most of the Africans living overseas. Many are from North Africa, but a growing number are from sub-Saharan countries like Mali.

The centre employs about 40 people and has a budget of about €10m. It officially opens on 6 October.

Migration from Mali - more information français.

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