On the sidelines of a stay in Abuja (Nigeria), the Permanent Secretary of the West African Observatory on Migrations paid a courtesy visit to the Trade, Customs and Free Movement of Persons Department of the ECOWAS Commission in Friday, August 16, 2019. During the visit, the Permanent Secretary of the Observatory met with Mr. Albert Siaw-Boateng, Director of Free Movement, Dr. Tony Luka Elumelu, Head of the Migration Division and Mr Awi, Executive Assistant to the Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Mr Tèi Konzi. The exchanges made it possible to discuss the subjects relating to the free movement of persons in the ECOWAS area, the revision of the protocol on free movement, the migration policy of ECOWAS, the governance of migration at the global level and the upcoming activities. of the department.
At the beginning of the discussions, the heads of the Free Movement Department expressed their satisfaction to hold this meeting with the West African Observatory on Migrations. The last physical meeting between the West African Observatory
on Migrations and the officials of the Free Movement Department dates back more than a year. The two sides agreed to have more regular meetings in the future to strengthen their collaboration and joint action on the hot topics of migration in West Africa.
With regard to free movement in the ECOWAS region, the department’s leaders stressed the need to increase awareness-raising activities so that citizens of the community have the necessary documents to avoid harassment and illegal entry fees payments at the borders. They also stressed the importance for citizens of the community in possession of their valid documents to claim their right to move freely in the face of immigration officers who could abuse them despite their travel documents up to date. The Permanent Secretary of the Observatory undertook to transmit this message to West African civil society organizations for actions at their level to raise the awareness of ECOWAS citizens of their right. to free movement. Department officials informed the Permanent Secretary of the Observatory of the forthcoming creation of monitoring centers for free movement at the various border posts in order to collect the complaints of the ECOWAS citizens victims of harassment during their mobility between the countries of the sub region.
Concerning the 1979 ECOWAS protocol on free movement, right of residence and establishment, the officials of the Free Movement Department reminded the Permanent Secretary of the revision process under way. Indeed, 40 years after the adoption of the protocol, substantive work is being conducted at the commission level to take into account the points that are not sufficiently addressed and for its contextual update with respect to the current realities of mobility and of migration in West Africa. The result of this review will be, according to officials of the department, beneficial to ensure greater freedom of movement and better settlement of community citizens in ECOWAS. In addition to actions already conducted around the passport, the biometric identity card and the brown card, the department intends to work to standardize also driving licenses in the West African sub-region.
The development of a regional migration policy was also one of the topics discussed during the exchanges. Department officials informed the Permanent Secretary of the Observatory that the said migration policy is being finalized to be submitted to the adoption of Heads of State. The Permanent Secretary of the Observatory, while welcoming this approach, expressed the wish to see West African civil society more involved in the ongoing process.
Finally, the place of ECOWAS in the global governance of migration was one of the last topics discussed during the exchanges. The Permanent Secretary of the Observatory expressed regret at not having seen ECOWAS played a more active role in the elaboration of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, adopted in Marrakech in December 2018. The Department of Free Movement explained this situation by the common position adopted by the Regional Economic Communities. This position was aimed to facilitate African countries speaking with one voice in the Global Compact negotiations. They pointed out, however, that discussions are already underway for the plan to implement the commitments of the Global Compact in West Africa.
To continue these fruitful exchanges, the two parties agreed to meet at the governmental experts meeting of the Migration Dialogue in West Africa (MIDWA) scheduled for August 2019, 20th -22nd in Lome (Togo).
Abuja, August 16, 2019
For the West African Observatory on Migrations
The Permanent Secretary