Abuja 1st August 2017. ECOWAS in collaboration with her partners, is stepping up efforts at curbing irregular migration as well as the management of the external borders of West Africa.
To this end, the Migration Dialogue for West Africa (MIDWA) Border Management Working Group began its two-Day meeting in Abuja, Nigeria on the 1st of August 2017 preparatory to the Heads of Immigration Meeting being convened to review and make recommendations on the implementation of the Protocol of Free Movement of Persons, migration and irregular migration management as well as regional data sharing.
Welcoming participants to the meeting, the ECOWAS Head of Division, Free Movement and Migration Dr. Tony Luka Elumelu who spoke on behalf of the Director, Free Movement and Tourism charged participants to approach the meeting with all seriousness so that the efforts at a joint tackling of the myriad of immigration challenges confronting the region will yield the desired results.
West African borders being contiguous, he remarked, there was a need to address irregular migration holistically without criminalising it.
“Stakeholders in the field of immigration should be conscious of their primary responsibility in the management of integration agenda especially now that the Free Movement model of ECOWAS is being replicated at the continental level as other regional economic Communities emulate its provisions” He added.
Dr. Elumelu stressed further that because the management of the borders across West Africa is not domiciled in any single country, the management of the implementation of the protocols put in place cannot be taken as business as usual with the imminence of a task force to jointly police the borders of West Africa with the rest of the world.
The Programme Manager, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Mr. Frantz Celestin pledged the continuous support of his organisation towards the realisation of the goals of the Support to Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa (FMM) programme. He is being assisted by the regional migration management specialist Erika De Bona Fofana.
The meeting was co-chaired by Togo and Nigeria. It featured discussions, reviews of previous recommendations on the subject matter, and presentations on regional dialogue on migration and institutional and consultative processes, baseline information analysis, data sharing, lessons learnt as well as best practices.
There were also country presentations, and an examination of the existing coordination groups at the national levels. The on-going exercise would lead to the finalisation of a Border Management Manual aided by expert contributions from heads of training schools and senior training personnel from all ECOWAS Member States.
The Heads of Immigration meeting is meant help arrive at a harmonised position by the immigration chiefs on the region’s pressing migration issues, including the stand to take at the upcoming Global Compact on Migration.
The ECOWAS Treaty as amended and its relevant protocols envisioned free movement of Persons, goods, services and capital towards the achievement of regional, economic and political integration.
It was in order to effectively implement the 1979 Protocol on Free Movement of persons and to remove all obstacles thereof that the ECOWAS Commission institutionalized the Heads of Immigration meeting after the successful hosting of the inaugural meeting by the Nigeria Immigration Service in Abuja 2005.
The Working Group comprises national officers in charge of Migration Section within the National Migration Agencies. Participants at the meeting are to jointly prepare the discussions points for the Heads of Immigration who meet from the 3rd to 4th of August 2017.