In a context marked by humanitarian crises caused by increasing flows of irregular migration from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe, ministers from more than fifty countries of origin, transit and destination met for the first time in order to respond to the questions raised by the challenges of migrations.
At that meeting there was a consensus on the need to adopt a balanced approach to migration issues in a spirit of shared responsibilities. The declaration and the action plan adopted at the first Euro-African Conference on Migration and Development, which was held in Rabat on 10-11 July 2006, reflected this innovative partnership characterised by a common vision which has established the basis for a close partnership between the countries concerned by the “West-African migration route” including migration to Europe from northern, central and western Africa.
The objective of the “Rabat Process” is to create a framework for dialogue and consultation within which concrete, practical initiatives are implemented. It reflects a new vision of migration issues characterised by a global, balanced and concrete approach to managing these issues. The European Union has asked the African partners to pursue a policy aimed at preventing and reducing illegal migration. This is however just one aspect of a migration policy which, in order to be consistent, also aims to improve the organisation of legal migration and promote the connections between migration and development.
Two years later, the Second Euro-African Conference on Migration and Development, organised in Paris in 2008, confirmed the vitality of the process and resulted in the adoption of an ambitious three-year cooperation programme resulting from the preliminary work done at three thematic meetings on legal migration, irregular migration and migration and development organized under the framework of the Project "Mise en Place du Plan d’Action de la Conférence de Rabat ", funded by the European Union and the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation and Development, which has finished in early 2011.
Then, on November 23rd 2011, the Third Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development was held in Dakar, Senegal, consolidating the achievements in the implementation of the three-year Paris Cooperation Program, and adopting a new strategy for the years 2012-2014 (the Dakar Strategy). This Strategy has made possible the development of enhanced cooperation through the implementation of numerous bilateral, sub-regional, regional and multilateral initiatives. It was based on five principles reflecting the spirit of the Rabat Declaration, where partners were committed to achieve ten priority objectives (founded on the three pillars of the Process).
Last November 27th 2014, Ministers and Senior Officials from the Rabat Process countries and organisations gathered in Rome for the 4th Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development. This conference resulted in the adoption of the Rome Declaration and its annex, the Rome Programme. Together, these documents constitute the new strategic framework for the 4th phase of the Rabat Process (2015-2017).
These new strategic documents reflect the continued support for the Rabat Process from both African and European partners who committed to pursuing their collaboration and dialogue during the next three years (2015-2017). Furthermore, the programme underlines the responsiveness of the dialogue to new circumstances and emerging priorities.
The Programme is based on four complementary pillars, including a pillar on the promotion of international protection which is an innovation in relation to the declarations of preceding Ministerial Conferences, notably:
The Rome Declaration emphasises especially two of those thematic priority areas on which to focus efforts: on the one hand, strengthening the close links between migration and development and, on the other hand, the prevention and fight against irregular migration and related crimes, with particular attention to border management and return policies, including voluntary return and readmission. The development of initiatives and the creation of partnerships along these two thematic areas are essential and particularly encouraged.