I will speak first as a young African. In the globalized world, men are not equal according to their passport. This inequality is reflected in the difficulties faced by Africans in general and young Africans in particular who wish to travel inside and outside the continent. Even for a short-term trip to attend a conference, visit one’s family or attend a training seminar, the difficulties are enormous. From visa requirements to repeated checks of travel documents at the airports, everything seems to suggest that any African who travels is a potential irregular migrant. This inequality and discrimination against Africans must be given special attention by the HLPM.
In addition, in the globalized world, there are opportunities open to all. So a young African can decide to marry a person living in any part of the world. This is an opportunity offered by globalization and the bringing together of continents thanks to ICTs and means of transport. A young African can also decide to travel just to discover the world and not necessarily because he is fleeing poverty. Among young people in the world, young Africans are those who have difficulty getting married to someone living on another continent or obtaining a visa for tourist trips.
Within the continent, the first challenge seems to be the integration of African migrants into their host country. Indeed, as Africans migrate more inside the continent than outside the continent, it is as difficult for them in their host country to have access to health, recognition of their diploma, to have decent work, to be able to continue their studies, or even to benefit from the right to become a citizen despite spending years in the country. This challenge is important to combat the scourge of xenophobia and the hunt for foreigners developing in some African countries.
The challenges of transnational trafficking of migrant workers and smuggling of migrants can not be ignored. The problem of migrant smuggling is mainly due to the absence of legal channels of migration that force migrants to resort to smugglers. Creating legal migration channels would make migration more regular and prevent African migrant workers from being exploited in their host country because of their irregular situation.
We need to pay close attention to the policies of our European Union (EU) neighbours, which not only tend to close their own borders but also put pressure on African countries to follow EU’s lead by more control at their borders on foreign African citizens in mobility. This is contrary to the desire for free movement in Africa to which all African populations aspire. Security issues are often raised to create barriers against migration and strengthen border management to the detriment of free movement. It is important to stress that the strengthening of border controls in Africa goes hand in hand with the increase of corruption at these points. Immigration officers use their posts to ransom citizens who wish to take advantage of the right of free movement that has assigned them by the protocols adopted by the States.
The effects of climate change and environmental degradation as drivers of migration must lead us to deep reflection on the adaptation mechanisms to be envisaged to enable sustainable employment and development in Africa. Most of time rural communities, which are the first and main victims of climate change, because their land’s productivity is affected, move to suburbs of the African big cities before going outside the continent via the dangerous migrations routes. If not considered by policies and politicians this may lead to more conflict and even violence in the big cities because of lack of opportunities and growing competition to survive.
In general the root causes of displacement and migration need to be discussed within the HLPM’s report including the issue of democratic governance in Africa, the colonisation of the continent by the transnational corporations, the tax evasion and the inequity established through the international economic and trade system. Indeed, young Africans do not find themselves in the current governance of their countries and the world. They don’t feel heard. This panders them to radicalise their actions for changing their society or migrate to the spaces where they hope to be more considered. The saddest thing in history is to see that the children unaccompanied by their parents are more and more numerous in the lot of African migrants fleeing the difficult conditions of life, the situations of repression and war in the countries
We want also to evoke the question of the diasporas. Although they are praised for their remittances, they are often excluded from the political and governance processes of countries. In fact, the issue of dual citizenship and diaspora voting remains a subject of much debate in African countries.
In the context of the negotiation of the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), we need to express a concrete position on the “African undocumented migrants” situation inside and outside our continent. If the deportation of African migrants from Europe and their reintegration is still conflictual debate with our partners of the European Union, it is important to note that the process of expelling irregular migrants in some African countries is not acceptable from the point of view of Human Rights. Irregular migrants are just pushed on the borders of the country even if the border is a desert. What is needed is a recommendation in the GCM on the importance of a ban of that practices as well as a renunciation of the detention of migrants.
It also seems important for our report to mention good practices that Africa can bring to the world in managing migration, especially forced migration. In this sense, the experiences in Uganda and Kenya and the efforts of these countries to manage the influx of refugees from different countries in their region are to be highlighted.
Beyond the usual speeches that make Africa a continent of departure, it is also up to us to highlight the hospitality of African countries that welcome equally the citizens of different countries of the world. The Indian and Chinese presences in African markets are not a mystery to anyone. The European presence, since the colonial era, is reinforced today with the installation in African countries of old European pensioners looking for a pleasant climate to end their life or employment opportunities that attract young unemployed europeans who sometimes compete with young African executives
As civil society actors, our first engagement will be to participate in the dissemination of the recommendations that will come from the HLPM. This is necessary to enable all citizens to take ownership of these recommendations and then to make their case at the country level. The civil society organizations can commit to conducting more monitoring action to assess the degree of implementation of HLPM recommendations in countries. Finally, the HLPM recommendations can be raised by civil society organizations during political dialogues with governments around migration.
(Speech of Samir ABI, Permanent Secretary of the West African Observatory on Migrations at the High Level Panel on International Migration in Africa (HLPM) Meeting in Geneva, IOM Headquarter, 28th-29th May 2018 )