Two thirds into 2020, the trio of linked crises — the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic and protection crises — have been affecting mixed migration dynamics all over the world. Countries along the migration route between the Horn of Africa and Europe are no exception to this reality.

Understanding the medium- and long-term implications of COVID-19 on migration for Khartoum Process partners poses a series of questions: How will the crisis impact mixed migration drivers, the aspirations of potential migrants and their capacity to move? In light of a potential increase in the aspirations (or need) to migrate, and rising border restrictions, will the demand for smuggling services increase? How is the crisis impacting the journeys of people on the move and their exposure to protection violations? How does this affect particularly vulnerable groups, such as families with children and women traveling alone? What are the implications for national and regional migration policies and responses?

The current global COVID-19 pandemic, the health security measures, and the ensuing travel restrictions have widespread consequences for people across our regions. Although the pandemic and consequent measures have limited the possibility for Khartoum Process partners to meet in person, this has not prevented the dialogue and cooperation from continuing.

To mitigate the impact of the pandemic on Khartoum Process activities, as well as address some of the pandemic’s consequences, The Netherlands, in its capacity of Chair of the Khartoum Process, has been exploring new formats of activities for the short- to medium-term, until the international situation will allow for the resumption of in-person meetings.

The first such activity took place on the 2nd of July, in the form of a virtual meeting, gathering online over 50 participants.

On the 6th of March 2020, Khartoum Process partners’ representatives met in The Hague, The Netherlands, for the 7th Senior Officials’ Meeting of the Process. Delegates had the opportunity to take stock of the work carried out during the Eritrean Chairmanship, discuss governance matters, and agree on a way forward for the finalisation of the Joint Valetta Action Plan update, initiated in April 2019.

This meeting also marked the Chairmanship handover from Eritrea to The Netherlands. As a result, the work plan for the Chairmanship of The Netherlands was also broadly defined on this occasion.

Participants confirmed the value and relevance of the Khartoum Process as a forum to discuss issues of common interest for the countries along the migration route in the Horn of Africa and Europe in order to identify concrete areas of cooperation.

In 2019, the Khartoum Process continued the implementation of its mandate by further supporting the participating states in their efforts to prevent and tackle the challenges of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants between the Horn of Africa and Europe. The implementation of the mandate was supported, among others, through piloting a novel format of an activity, namely Regional Training Programme on Countering Trafficking in Human Beings.   

Additionally, concrete examples of continued work include the expansion of the thematic focus, with the aim to systematically address the five pillars of the Joint Valletta Action Plan (JVAP). To this end, Thematic Meetings on labour migration, as well as on migration and development, with a particular focus on the role of diaspora, facilitated partners’ active engagement into a constructive dialogue on matters that have until 2019 remained unexplored in the framework of the Process. These meetings, co-hosted by Egypt and Portugal, and Eritrea and Switzerland, respectively, provided a platform for exploring new areas of policy development, bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and sharing of good practices. 

On 23rd – 24th of October 2019, the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative (Khartoum Process) convened a thematic meeting on Migration for Development: Harnessing the Potential of Diaspora. The meeting was hosted and chaired by Eritrea and co-chaired by Switzerland.

The meeting has been attended by Khartoum Process partners representatives (Khartoum Process countries, the African Union Commission, the European Commission, the European External Action Service, IOM, UNHCR, GIZ), representatives of UNCDF, IFAD, AFFORD, World Bank / KNOMAD, and ADEPT, as well as relevant private sector representatives from MFS Africa and Homestrings.

The meeting aimed at exploring the topic of leveraging diaspora potential for development, starting from understanding, reaching out to and engaging with the diaspora, to providing an enabling environment to maximise diaspora capital, including remittances, skills, and knowledge, amongst other types of contributions. Discussions were structured along the following thematic pillars:

  1. Engaging the diaspora in their host countries: options for the countries of origin;
  2. Fostering an environment favourable to the engagement of diaspora in their country of origin;
  3. Remittances and investments: ways of maximising the impact of remittances.

On the 24th-25th of September 2019, Egypt, together with Portugal as co-chair, hosted the Khartoum Process Thematic Meeting on Legal Frameworks and Policy Development: Optimising the Benefits of Organised Labour Migration.

This meeting was organised in response to the expressed interest of the Khartoum Process membership to address the Joint Valletta Action Plan (JVAP) in its entirety, alongside the priorities charted in the Rome Declaration, with the corresponding focus on addressing the challenges of trafficking of human beings and smuggling of migrants.

As underlined in the Analysis Report of Khartoum Process prepared for the JVAP Senior Officials’ Meeting in Malta in February 2017, legal migration should be further strengthened by encouraging policies that promote regular channels for migration, whilst recognising that progress has been made in respect to specific references to increased opportunities for students and researchers.

Against this backdrop, this first Thematic Meeting on legal migration organised within the framework of the Khartoum Process was designed to take stock of the existing legal and policy instruments regulating labour migration in the region and to facilitate knowledge sharing amongst the partners. Additionally, it aimed to explore the operational side of the policies in place, to provide updates related to the existing legal frameworks, and contribute to a shared understanding of the related challenges and good practices amongst the participating states and organisations.

In the framework of the Khartoum Process, Senior Officials' Meetings are the main fora for policy dialogue, offering a unique opportunity for Members to exchange views on the progress made individually and jointly and the way forward in achieving the aims of the Process. 

The most recent Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) took place in Asmara on 7th March 2019 and marked the beginning of the Eritrean Chairmanship of the Khartoum Process. The chairmanship of the Process is ensured on an alternating basis from among African and European participating States. With Italy as the outgoing Chair, Eritrea took up this role for the year of 2019.

The Regional Training on Countering Trafficking in Human Beings was a two-day event elaborated and implemented as a means of delivering on the commitments made under the Italian Chairmanship of the Khartoum Process. The programme represented a first-of-a-kind activity in the framework of the Khartoum Process and was designed in consultation with the host country and based on the inputs provided by KP national focal points by means of a pre-training needs assessment, to ensure a tailored-fit content that addresses national and regional priorities in the fight against trafficking in human beings.

The event gathered over 40 participants from Khartoum Process member states and regional organisations such as IGAD, as well as representatives of international organisations such as IOM, UNDP, and UNCHR.