Rabat Process: Senior Officials’ Meeting – African CSOs Common Position

This statement follows the consultation launched by the West African Observatory on Migrations, prior to the Senior Officials Meeting of the Rabat Process, with associations, networks, unions and religious organizations working on migration in Central, West and North Africa. Its content responds to the positions and recommendations expressed by these organizations.

African civil society organizations express their deep appreciation to the Rabat Process Chairmanship and its secretariat for the initiative to bring civil society to the Senior Official Meeting for the first time. For the actors of the African civil society, this initiative is to be applauded because it guarantees, in our point of view a pledge of taking into account their concerns by the African and European States involved in the Rabat process. In addition, this openness to civil society helps to ensure that public opinion is transparently informed about the process. African CSOs, on the whole, want to strongly recommend the presence of civil society and diasporas in the meetings of the Rabat process being strengthened during the period 2018-2020.

For African civil society, the newscast on migration both in Europe and in the different regions of Africa makes it more than ever necessary to maintain a framework of sincere and frank dialogue between European countries and their African partners. United by the bonds of neighborhood and a common history since ancient times, Europe and Africa can develop only in mutual agreement. This is the greatest wish of the African people who, in the age of globalization, aspire to greater solidarity with other parts of the world to face the political, economic, social and environmental challenges that affect our planet. In this sense, the African civil society welcomes the priority given to youth and youth employment in Africa in the framework of the next Africa – European Union Summit in November 2017 in Côte d’Ivoire.

However, the African civil society wishes to recall that youth mobility and migration are not to be considered as problems. In the views of civil society, mobility and migration of African populations are only a logical and normal consequence of this new proximity born of globalization.This is why the African civil society welcomes the approach in terms of migration and development of the Rabat process. Indeed, the migrant is far from being a criminal. He or she is a development actor that contributes enormously to the social renewal and economic vitality of its host country, transit and origin. The whole world is thus winning from the migration. The present meeting therefore offers the opportunity for civil society to welcome the important role of African diasporas in Europe and in Africa in terms of economic and social development.

On the basis of this observation, the African civil society is worried about the dominance of the security vision of migration to the detriment of the vision of development that stigmatize people in mobility, and in particular migrants, as criminals. Despite targeted expectations in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of recognizing and framing migration a development tool for the planet, African civil society is seeing in many regions tougher legislative measures imposed that make regional and international mobility difficult for African populations. The free movement of people in West Africa and between sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa is deteriorating because of projects promoting the safe management of borders and the hunting of migrants instead of the protection of their human rights.

However, there are glimmers of hope in Central Africa region, particularly in Chad and Gabon, who have undertaken the process of facilitating the free movement of citizens of their region on their soil. This approach, which the African civil society welcomes, must be echoed by all the member states of the Rabat process in order to make the free mobility of the populations on the African continent and between Europe and Africa the ultimate goal of the Euro-African dialogue around migration.

The continued criminalization of the mobility of African people, through the reinforcement of the controls they are subjected to at airports, at land borders and in their country of residence, also results in an upsurge of xenophobic acts and discrimination against them. The collective deportations of migrant workers, asylum seekers and in some cases refugees that African civil society has seen in recent months are worrying enough not to be ignored. The lack of respect for human rights during deportation proceedings causes severe hardship that sadden African populations.

Migrant workers and their family members, victims of these deportation contribute through their efforts and their presence to the growth of the host or transit countries, e.g. by exercising the most difficult or risky jobs on the construction sites. on the fields or in private households and often without social protection. Non-respect or non-ratification of UN and ILO conventions protecting the rights of migrant workers and members of their families continue to penalize better integration and greater contribution of migrants to a country’s development. The lack of consideration of these fundamental human rights treaties is at the root of modern slavery against migrant workers in general, and migrant women in particular, in many African and European countries. African civil society remains convinced that the solutions to the exploitation of migrant workers does not lie in the adoption of legislation controlling the mobility of citizens in order to fight the smuggling of migrants, but rather in the facilitation of legal channels of mobility and issuing visas to Africans.

The social situation in many African countries caused by unemployment, poor governance, armed conflict, lack of social protection etc. brings African civil society to take a critical look at the readmission and forced return of undocumented migrants from Europe to these countries. The social reintegration of these expelled migrants is still a thorn in the hands of African countries. In the spirit of the frank and sincere dialogue that animates Euro-African cooperation, African civil society hopes that European states will seriously study the options of regularization and social integration of undocumented migrants before deporting them to countries whose situation make them even more vulnerable to the risk of losing their lives.

The issue of children in mobility is a major concern for African civil society. The increase in the phenomenon of unaccompanied children who find themselves migrating away from their country reflects the deep crisis in our societies. The solution to this phenomenon remains for civil society to take into account the best interests of the child as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Civil society wishes to point out that in the case of unaccompanied children returning and reintegrating into the country of origin is not necessarily the best solution. Civil society calls on States to promote the protective accompaniment of children on the move by guaranteeing them access to basic social services and making it easier for them to obtain identity documents.

African civil society is more than ever willing to work alongside the member states of the Rabat process to ensure better protection of the human rights of migrants and their successful integration wherever they are. To achieve this, access to funding made available through the process needs to be simplified for African organizations. Indeed, despite the many migration-related challenges that African countries face, African civil society, in its role of supporting states, faces a serious lack of resources. The priority given to budget support to states and the obligation for African organizations to have European partners before having access to certain calls for projects make it difficult to access funding for their activities. Faced with these constraints, the number of African civil society actors active in the field to help and facilitate a migration source of development is reduced. The next 2018-2020 program of the Rabat process gives Africa’s civil society a better future for its action to improve the mobility of African populations and the situation of migrants in Africa and Europe.

Accra, 24 October 2017

On the behalf of African Civil Society Organizations

The West African Observatory on Migrations

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