By Ifeanyi Nwoko
Member States and the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have been fully equipped to drive the process of migration and other related issues in the sub-region.
The capacity building project tagged “Free Movement Of Persons And Migration In West Africa” and powered by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and its partners, began in 2013 and was officially closed in Abuja on Thursday.
Speaking in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, Mr Tony Elumelu, Head, Border Management and Migration Division of ECOWAS said the project has equipped the Sub-region to handle its migration and free movement issues.
“I will make bold to say that it has really achieved a lot. As we speak, member states have the capacity to drive the migration process in the region.
“You can see that we have been able to strengthen the dialogue process. We have been able to institutionalize some thematic areas, the working group in border management, mixed migration.
“We are also trying institutional some emerging issues like migration and climate change, migration and security.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa (FMM) project aimed at maximizing the development potential of free movement of persons and migration in West Africa by supporting implementation of the ECOWAS Free Movement of Persons’ Protocols and the ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration.
Giving more insight into the FMM Project, the ECOWAS Representative said that it aimed at ensuring the implementation of the free movement protocol and also ECOWAS common approach on Migration.
He added that part of the focus was to ensure that members of the community implement the rights of entry, residence and establishment and also related instrument in terms of migration beyond the region.
“As at today, the project has enabled capacity building of ECOWAS Commission and also the member states,” he said.
Also speaking in an interview, Farah Mohamed, FMM Project Coordinator in the office of the IOM, said that the project provided support to ECOWAS and its member states.
He pointed out that IOM’s mandate was specifically to support dignified mobility, whether it is within ECOWAS as a region or between ECOWAS and the Continental Africa.
“We have been working with the ECOWAS Free movement directorate in coming up with policies that will make it easy for member states to adopt and implement the 1979 free movement protocol,” he said.
Mohamed added that at its inception in 2013, the project set out to implement the free movement protocol in three core components:
“Strengthening the capacity of ECOWAS to develop and review policies for free movement, a case in point is the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card which we worked together with ECOWAS to create awareness.
“Second component was on supporting member states in developing National Migration policies and thirdly was to work with the non-state actors and civil society across the block.
“We worked with 13 CSOs in 13 member states. In Nigeria we worked with NAPTIP on counter trafficking and smuggling in persons,” he said.
Going forward, the FMM coordinator said that the IOM now expects ECOWAS to better implement its free movement protocol.
Some of those present at the ceremony were: European Union Delegation, ECOWAS Commission and FMM West Africa consortium partners (IOM, International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development)