Accra – From 1 to 6 August, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), conducted the Advocacy and Sensitization Campaign on Free Movement and Migration in Accra, Ghana, in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and at the Elubo-Noe border between both countries.
The campaign, in line with ECOWAS Vision 2020, aims to transform an ‘ECOWAS of States’ into an ‘ECOWAS of its People’.
The six-day campaign aimed to sensitize ECOWAS Community Citizens and migrants, relevant stakeholders and the general public in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire on the benefits and opportunities of free movement and migration in the ECOWAS region which comprises 15 countries. Cross-border women traders, law enforcement agencies and border operatives, local government authorities, border community members and leaders, youth, government institutions, unions and networks of inter-state transporters and the media were among the beneficiaries and stakeholders of the campaign.
“The need to protect all migrants traveling throughout the ECOWAS region is crucial as mobility and migration offer so many opportunities for the development of our region,” said Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, IOM Ghana Chief of Mission. “These opportunities will not be fully realized if migrants from ECOWAS countries continue to suffer from abuse and exploitation while on the move.”
The campaign focused on addressing the specific challenges, such as traveling without valid travel documents, harassment and administrative challenges at the border posts, trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants and the lack of knowledge and awareness of the protocols of free movement, which are affecting the effective implementation of free movement and mobility in the region. The campaign also worked towards fostering a sense of personal responsibility, motivation and commitment to overcoming the obstacles of free movement and safe migration throughout the ECOWAS region.
As part of the campaign, stakeholder meetings were conducted in Accra and Abidjan where representatives from the government, immigration, customs, local authorities, unions and networks of traders and transporters, youth associations, development partners and the diplomatic corps were brought together to discuss free movement and migration in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire specifically and in the ECOWAS region.
“Despite the Free Movement Protocols, the ECOWAS region continues to face challenges which delay the actualization of free movement as envisaged by its founders,” said Hon. Charles Owiredu, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana. “We ought to chart a path towards real regional integration which should lead to the development, prosperity and well-being of our people. Ghana is determined to ensure a better public understanding of issues relating to integration and their effective implementation,” he continued.
In the era of unprecedented human mobility, about 90 per cent of ECOWAS Community Citizens move throughout the ECOWAS sub-region. Since the adoption of the ECOWAS Protocols of Free Movement of Persons and the Right of Residence and Establishment in 1979, the need to protect all migrants, community citizens and traders, especially women, traversing ECOWAS borders remains paramount.
“Migration is a historical phenomenon in the world. In the year 2050, the population of West Africa is set to increase to an amount of approximately 650 million people, therefore, migration in the region will be inevitable,” said Tei Konzi, ECOWAS Commissioner of Free Movement, Trade and Customs.
The campaign also conducted focus groups with local authorities and law enforcement, cross-border traders, youth, and transporters, associations of returning migrants, law enforcement, the Elubo-Noe border operatives and community members.
The campaign is part of the “Support to Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa” project (FMM West Africa) and also received logistical support from the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ).