By John Okeke
The fourth annual Ministerial meeting on ECOWAS regional migration cooperation to strengthen inter-state conversation on migration related issues under the auspices of the Migration Dialogue for West Africa (MIDWA), held on the 24th of July, 2020.
The Ministers deliberated on the modalities of involving ECOWAS Member States at the highest level, in the implementation of regional legal instruments on free movement of persons while strengthening the existing synergies between the Ministers responsible for security and interior in order to facilitate the application of regional instruments relating to migration, among others.
Following the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on regional free movement, the ministers were also briefed on guidelines to be adopted by Member States, in this regard, on border management for ease of implementation given that they have oversight function on the enforcement agencies.
Welcoming the Ministers to the virtual meeting on behalf of H.E Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Tei Konzi, the Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement observed that the region has recently been experiencing various types of migration which have exacerbated the effects on population pressure, poverty, poor economic performance and endemic conflict. The development, he maintained, has necessitated deliberations on border management in accordance with the new guidelines for the mobility of persons.
Commissioner Konzi stressed that in order to understand contemporary migration systems and current policies in the region, it was necessary to examine the situation and discuss lessons learned for the formulation and implementation of migration policies to identify the challenges posed to West Africa by migration management.
Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, Chair of the Meeting and Minister of Interior of the Federal Republic of Nigeria noted that dialogue is a basic tool of civilization meant to deepen the engagement and advancement of citizens and nations.
Stressing the need to examine the identified issues of migration that are of mutual benefits to all, the minister drew particular attention to developments that concern security, criminality which also involves the region’s border facilities.
He particularly sued for greater collaboration with the government of Nigeria in order to deal more decisively with the incursion of bandits, terrorists and insurgency elements that are infiltrating the territories of Member States. While rounding up the meeting, he called on delegates to ensure that resolutions on ease of movement are well guarded even as a harmonized data management and integrated systems for efficiency are developed.
Following the expression of goodwill by the European Union whose commitment to the MIDA process was delivered by Ms Eleni Zerzelidou, the representative of the International Office for Migration Ms Aissata Kane, on her part, extended deep appreciation to the ECOWAS Commission for the leadership provided in the migration processes of the region.
She disclosed IOM’s optimism that ministers will validate the ECOWAS Regional Migration Policy and the manual on border management and free movement training. This also include the guidelines for the harmonization of migration data management in the ECOWAS Region as well as the MIDWA Monitoring and Evaluation Plan.
The meeting featured the presentation of reports and summaries of recommendations of the 2019 MIDWA experts, heads of Immigration meeting as well as an update on the global compact for Migration and regional consultative process.