A Director of the African Regional Integration Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Kodzo K. Alabo, has called for proper management of migration issues within the sub-region to enable both origin and destination countries to reap the maximum gains.
Human mobility, he said, was one of the defining features of today’s world so long as it underscored the right of freedom of movement.
“Human capital, such as the financial one, cannot be stopped from crossing national borders; indeed migration can only be properly managed for our collective gains”, he said.
Dr Alabi was speaking at the opening of a two-day migration dialogue for West Africa (MIDWA) experts and ministerial meeting in Accra.
The event, which is on the theme, “Free movement of persons for regional integration and economic cooperation”, is being attended by migration experts from across the sub-region to conceptualise migration to fit into the broad development agenda at the national level of member states of ECOWAS.
It will also enable them to raise awareness of the ECOWAS Free Movement agenda and inform stakeholders about the ongoing revisions of the Free Movement protocols.
The event is being organised by the ECOWAS and funded by the EU under the Support to Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa project.
Migration offers huge potential
Dr Alabo said in the sub-region, migration mainly was driven by market forces, regional security, political stability and labour needs of mineral extraction as well as extensive plantations.
“For host countries, skilled migrants such as health professionals, teachers and engineers place their skills cheaply at the disposal of the host populations who gain because services of their own nationals would have cost them much more.
“Very often, migrants also do less fancied and menial jobs that most citizens do not like to be engaged in.”
Appropriate policies required
Dr Alabo acknowledged that besides the huge potential offered by migration, it also presented a number of challenges which could be associated with inequalities and vulnerabilities, especially when it was poorly governed or occurred under conditions of insecurity.
“The gains that can be derived from migration are, therefore, not automatic but rather hinge upon the application of appropriate policies that ensure that migration is carried out in a humane and orderly way and upon the protection of human rights and well-being of the migrants”, he said.
Migration needs proper management
The Head of Governance Section of the EU delegation to Ghana, Ms Pillar Palmero Vaquero, said with the fast-growing, young and increasingly urban population, West Africa was undergoing rapid population changes which were having important effects on migration patterns.
“In the context of penury of job opportunities, environmental degradation and political instability, mobility, which remains predominantly intra-regional, and its associated benefits represent, a vital livelihood strategy for many West Africans,” she said.
“When this mobility takes place in a safe and orderly manner, it is also associated with improved outcomes in terms of health and education, gender equality and women empowerment and can help communities to prevent or cope with environmental degradation,” she added.
According to her, it was increasingly clear that free movement of people, goods and services within the region was crucial for regional economic integration and the development of West Africa.
The Deputy Head of Mission of the Swiss Embassy to Ghana, Mr Francois Schmidt, pledged the support of the Swiss government to support ECOWAS to organise follow-up meetings to ensure the prompt implementation of measures to decide the outcome of the conference.
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