Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) were aware of the meeting organized on June 18-19 by the African Union Commission (AUC) in Lusaka (Zambia) on the validation of a draft plan for implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in Africa. This meeting, which follows the adoption of the compact in Marrakech in December 2018, is, in the eyes of African civil society, an important meeting to determine concrete actions and improve the situation of migrants in Africa. Despite the relatively short period of time, wide consultation among civil society actors working on migration in Africa made it possible to draw up a list of proposals to be submitted to the meeting following the seven (7) priorities identified by the Commission of the African Union (AUC) and its partners of the United Nations for the next three years.
Priority 1: Promoting fact-based and data-driven migration discourse, policy and planning (Objectives 1 and 3 of the GCM)
While welcoming the proposals already made by the AUC for the operationalization of the regional observatories, the strengthening of the AU Statistical Institute, national and regional statistical offices, CSOs wish to underline the following points:
1- In the eyes of African civil society, the criminalization of migrants, through current legislation in most African countries, confines irregular migrants to hiding and prevents an efficient collection of data at continental level. For the Civil Society actors succeeding in the objectives of this priority would require an effort by the States to avoid repression and fear for migrants to enable them to be registered during the official census surveys.
2- Migrants are not just numbers or digital data, they are stories and experiences that are worth collecting and analyzing for the development of migration policies respectful of human rights. Taking into account the qualitative aspects of migration is therefore a key element for the success of this priority.
3- The weakness of collaboration between civil society structures and official data collection institutions is also an important point to improve for the coming years. Data collected by CSOs, faith-based organizations and trade unions which provide services to both regular and irregular migrants are under-valued at country, RECs and continental levels.
4- The access of citizens to the data produced by official institutions on migrants (via dedicated websites or electronic applications) also seems to us fundamental for the achievement of the objectives expected by the Global Compact for Migration (GCM).
Priority 2: Protecting the human rights and elimination of all forms of discrimination to African migrants and diaspora (Objectives 1, 3 and 17 of the GCM)
CSOs support the legal measures proposed in the Action Plan to punish all acts of discrimination against migrants on the African continent. In addition to raising awareness of host populations and involving the media in the prevention of discrimination, CSOs suggest:
5- The generalization of education programs on living together and discovering the cultural wealth of different African countries and the world. This point is crucial because the lack of knowledge of African cultural wealth and the promotion of Western cultures are as much a driver of migration as a cause to the rise of xenophobia amongst Africans.
6- The reinforcement and financing of the programs of meetings, interuniversity exchanges and travel of young people on the continent in order to facilitate a better knowledge of other cultures and a better mix amongst peoples.
7- Taking into account alerts from civil society on abuses and violence on migrant rights in AU member states by sending independent observers to review and report on the situation to the peace and security organs of the African Union.
8- The establishment of a mechanism for rapid intervention or even sanctions against African countries where xenophobic attacks or the hunting of migrants on discriminatory or racist bases take place.
Priority 3: Addressing irregular migration including through managing borders and combatting transnational crime (Objectives 9, 10 and 11 of the GCM)
Migrant smuggling and transnational trafficking are important issues on the continent. Once again, civil society wishes to point out that security measures at borders are not the best solution to end the exploitation of migrants. Strengthening borders makes migrants even more vulnerable to harassment by immigration officials. In addition, borders favor the business of smugglers who will always find ways to circumvent them. Finally, the indebtedness of African countries generated by the industry of securing borders and biometrics can not be passed over in silence. To address the tragedies of irregular migration and combat transnational crime in and outside the continent, the following options should be considered:
9- Put an end to the borders inherited from colonization that divide Africa and destroy the effort of continental integration so as to create an area of free mobility on the continent.
10- Negotiate mobility agreements respectful of African citizens between African Union and its American, Asian and European partners.
11- Develop good practices of protective accompaniment of migrant workers and create cells dedicated to the fight against transnational trafficking in the diplomatic missions.
12- Encourage complaints regarding the harassment of migrants while crossing borders, with particular attention to punishing the abuse of immigration services against women in migration.
Priority 4: Facilitating regular migration, decent work and enhancing the positive development effects of human mobility (Objectives 2, 5, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 of the GCM)
As repeatedly stressed by the African Union, intra-African labor migration is the most important aspect of mobility on the continent. Adhering to the proposals already set out in the Plan of Action for regular migration and decent work for migrant workers in the formal and informal sectors, CSOs propose:
13- Regularize the situation of migrant workers in African countries by improving legislation in the host countries to make the work permit accessible at lower cost.
14- Create at the level of public employment services in African countries websites dedicated to inform on labor needs not covered by the local market.
Priority 5: Promoting migrant and diaspora to fully contribute for sustainable development in both host and sending countries (Objectives 18, 19, 20 of the GCM)
For civil society, it is important to go beyond the utilitarian vision of the diaspora as funders or co-development projects managers and move towards a holistic vision of the diaspora’s contribution to the development of the continent. Thus the measures set out in the action plan to boost diaspora investment on the continent and reduce the cost of remittances do not seem sufficient for real diaspora participation in the continent’s construction efforts. To do so, CSOs recommend to:
15- Adopt legislation that grants the right to binationals to be involved in the political life of their country of origin.
16- Support the development of African cultural centers in host countries outside the continent to enhance African cultures in the diaspora.
Priority 6: Enhancing protection of migrants, search for durable solutions, including return and readmission (Objectives 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21 of the GCM)
African public opinion is concerned about the conditions under which African migrants return from other African countries as well as from Western countries. The policies of return or expulsion of migrants are dehumanizing. They plunge into disarray people who, even in an irregular situation in their host country manage to provide resources for themselves and their families. While recognizing the need for specific actions for the readmission to their country of origin of migrants in distress or vulnerable situations in transit or host countries, civil society organizations appeal to African States and to the African Union to review their agreements with the European Union on the expulsion of migrants and the outsourcing of migration policies. CSOs want the action plan to take into account the following elements:
17- Adoption by all African States of legal frameworks for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers.
18- The establishment of a suitable rescue mechanism for migrants in distress on the seas and in the oceans all around the African continent and not only in the Mediterranean Sea.
19- Inclusion in public policies of protection standards for children in mobility by ensuring their accompaniment and their best interests throughout their migration.
Priority 7: Capacity building of Member States on GCM implementation. (All GCM objectives)
Civil society organizations, faith-based organizations and trade unions hope to work closely with the African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities and the African Union Commission in implementing this plan of action. Therefore, they welcome the inclusive approach initiated by the African Union Commission extended to them in the formulation of this plan of action. They call on African Union Member States and Regional Economic Communities to follow the example of the Commission by involving civil society in their country or region in their implementation strategy. Civil society is committed from the outset to contribute to the wide dissemination of the African Union action plan across the continent so as to facilitate the ownership of the plan by all actors and to ensure improvement in the African migrant’s situation through the implementation of the GCM.
On behalf of the Civil Society Organisations
The West African Observatory on Migrations