By Ifeanyi Nwoko/Henrietta Deme
Stakeholders in the West African sub-region on Tuesday, met to review the priorities on ensuring safe, orderly, and regular migration as enshrined in the Global Compact for Migration (GCM).
Representatives from the International Organisation (IOM), African Union (AU), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who topped the list of stakeholders, are holding a a 3-day consultation on the implementation of the Global Compact.
The Global Compact is the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, covering all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.
This is coming even as all member states agree that migration is very cardinal to the economic development of the sub-region, with foreign remittances by migrants said to now outweigh Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Ghanaian Minister of Interior Ambrose Dery, who declared the consultation open, said that migration had become very important to the socio-economic development of Africa.
Quoting available statistics, he said that with remittances by migrants now outweighing FDI, migration issues should be prioritised such that its advantages “are harnessed while curbing its limitations.
“Migration as we are aware has assumed an important role in the global agenda due to its prospects for social and economic development and has gained recognition from policy makers and leaders of nations.
“In Ghana for instance, the contribution of migrants has played a great role in shaping our national development over the years
“We cannot gloss over the numerous benefit of migration, for example, the flow of migrant remittances into African countries is now projected to outweigh foreign direct investment and official domestic assistance.
“The complex migration dynamics confronting member states mean that in addition to the benefit of migration, there are also challenges.”
He said that some of the specific challenges of migration included movement of people from rural areas to urban centres resulting in rapid urbanisation.
Dery also said that the growing trend in trafficking, smuggling of migrants, and abuse of migrants’ rights were also some of the challenges.
He added that migration remained a burning issue in Africa and an Area African countries needed to harness and make new policies on and make develop to a national agenda on migration.
The mimister underscored the need to nip the root causes of irregular migration in the bud so that young Africans could stop risking their lives.
“GCM offers a prospect for improving migration governance and addressing the challenges that confront migration while reinforcing the contributions of migrants and migration to sustainable development.
“It also complements the sustainable development goals and provides a framework for international cooperation,” he said.
Speaking, Nigeria’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar, said that migration had its own economic and social values that needed to be harnessed.
The minister who was represented by Prof. Fatima Azi, Director General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), said the Coronavirus pandemic had exposed the vulnerability of migrants.
According to her, there should be collaboration in the global scene to manage migration issues, pointing out that West Africa takes migration issues seriously.
“Migration issues have brought about the most exchange of values, cultures and resources that has contributed to the unity in diversity in the ECOWAS region.
“We have a rich diaspora base whose social and economic remittances assist the government in achieving the desired development goals,” she said.
She, however, said that there were negative impacts around migration which must however be addressed, hence the need for collaborative efforts by all actors to manage migration.
On her part, IOM’s Senior Regional Advisor for Sub-Saharan Africa Aissata Kane acknowledged that the presence of the AU, ECOWAS, and the Regional UN Network for Migration for West and Central Africa, was a clear demonstration of their commitment to the joint engagement towards better migration governance.
She explained that the GCM was not only a range of objectives for all stakeholders to implement but rather a shared vision that migration can benefit migrants, their communities and countries, if well managed and people-centered.
She informed participants that the African Regional Review of the GMC had just been concluded with African countries pledging commitment to all 23 objectives the GMC, noting that it was a sign of progress.
Kane also noted that in West Africa, ECOWAS had shown commitment to facilitating mobility through its 1979 Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons and goods.
“The exchange between Member States of ECOWAS is crucial. I am confident that what brings us together is the common and shared approach on migration that we see as a source of opportunities rather than a problem-solving challenge.
“This is actually what the Global Compact for Migration aims to support.
“The Global Compact lays the foundation for renewed and strengthened partnerships, which reflects multifaceted priorities and coherent and complementary responses to emerging migration-related challenges and more importantly its wonderful opportunities.
“This engagement is particularly relevant with the number of ECOWAS countries that are GCM champions such as Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal and more recently Niger<’ she said.
The Senior Advisor stressed that for the IOM, the Global Compact provides an approach that fits perfectly with the new working methods of the United Nations to respond to development priorities of the West Africa.
Delivering his address to welcome participants, President of ECOWAS Jean Claude-Brou said that although migration was integral to development, it also portends risks, hence the consultation on the GCM.
Brou who was represented by Albert Boateng from the ECOWAS Commission, said that ECOWAS over the years had preserved the gains of regional integration and which he said were cardinal to a successful GCM implementation.
“We do not dispute that there are still loopholes in the context of migration within the region. Community citizens continue to migrate irregularly losing their lives as they embark on these perilous journeys.
“It is in this regard that the ECOWAS Commission since its inception has put in place policies, frameworks and tools to ensure that migration is undertaken in a safe orderly and regular manner.
“In addition to these internal policies, the ECOWAS Commission and its Member States have aligned practices with international migration related policies of which the GCM is a major key framework.
“I strongly believe that ECOWAS Community has the capacity to implement and operationalize the GCM,” he said.
He, therefore, called on member states to address drivers of migration curbing poverty, create jobs and foster good governance.
He also charged ECOWAS nations to design and implement interventions promoting the full implementation of the ECOWAS 1979 Free Movement Protocol and promote and support labour circulation within the region.
He also charged members to Invest in border management tools and initiatives and also establish high standards of border management and fair and transparent immigration processes. (NAN)