The Netherlands helps to combat people smuggling in Mali

On Monday foreign minister Bert Koenders met with his Malian counterpart, Abdoulaye Diop. The two ministers discussed the peace process in Mali and MINUSMA, the UN mission to which the Netherlands will continue contributing next year. The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, was also present at the meeting.

Mr Diop expressed his appreciation for the Netherlands’ major contribution to the success of the mission and stressed that MINUSMA’s presence is crucial to the stability of Mali. The Malian minister also said that he valued the Netherlands’ active efforts to encourage other Western countries to take part in the mission.

The Netherlands has set aside €2 million to ensure that Mali and other West African countries are better equipped to tackle people smuggling and associated human rights abuses. The money will go to the funds of two UN bodies – UNODC and OHCHR – which deal with this issue.

Mali plays a central role in the unstable Sahel region. The country is grappling with a number of transnational problems, such as smuggling and terrorism. It is also a transit country for Europe-bound migrants.

Both Mr Koenders and Mr Diop believe that the countries of the region should do their part to combat people smuggling. ‘By investing in investigative and judicial capacity, the countries can address the problem more effectively,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘There is also room for improvement with regard to regional cooperation and information-sharing.’

Mr Diop invited Mr Koenders to visit Mali in the near future to make further arrangements on curbing irregular migration, in connection with ongoing negotiations between the EU and Mali on a migration agreement. Mr Koenders was in Mali earlier this year to take part in talks on that subject on behalf of the EU.

Since the start of the mission in Mali, there has been some progress. Democratic elections have been held and a peace agreement has been signed, which is being observed by both the Malian government and armed groups. Tens of thousands of displaced persons and refugees have returned to the north of the country, and there are signs of economic development. ‘Mali still has a way to go, but with MINUSMA’s support, the Malian government and the armed groups have taken some big steps forward,’ said Mr Koenders.

Along with its military contribution to the UN mission the Netherlands is also pushing ahead with various development efforts. In that connection the ministers spoke about programmes involving security, the legal order, the water supply and job creation for young people. Improving the prospects of the country’s rapidly growing and young population is vital to Mali’s future stability.