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African dilemma in world migration crisis

By Tony Luka Elumelu
06 April 2016   |   12:09 am
For Africa and Africans, migration is a way of life and this is also largely true of people of the other continents.
ECOWAS Headquarters

ECOWAS Headquarters

For Africa and Africans, migration is a way of life and this is also largely true of people of the other continents. To a large extent, the great Trans-Saharan Trade, and the attendant migration, was part of attempts at achieving economic development, boosting cultural exchanges and integration. Thus, migration can be described as an agent of development, which has impacted positively on the Gross Development Products of many African countries, and the economic contributions, in remittances by African Diasporas to their home countries, which is a boost to the annual budgets. Furthermore, the transfer of capacities and technology from the Diasporas has contributed immensely to the development of the region, even though, the host countries of the African Diasporas remain the primary beneficiaries.

The unravelling global migration crisis has engendered the deployment of a range of policies and measures designed by developed countries (or countries of destination) to check the influx of migrants from the developing world. African countries and their economies have been hardest hit by the negative impacts of these anti-migration policies and measures, which go against grain of sustainable migration management, with calamitous consequences both on Africa and the world at large.

The world is today grappling with an upsurge in criminal activities; African states are overwhelmed by the dimension of criminal sects with global affiliations and financing, and these have left the region with paucity of funds and lack of capacities to combat emerging crimes or for economic development. Migration experts are always quick to cite the so-called push and pull factors of migration and these include social, economic, political and environmental reasons, to name but a few. But while the developed nations do everything to prevent non-skilled immigrants, they surreptitiously encourage the outflow of skilled labour from the already hard pressed developing counties.

The combined consequences of perennial conflicts in Africa, poverty, bad governance, unemployment and lack of opportunities or sheer opportunism have seen thousands of African youths perish on perditious journeys to Europe through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean. Even those who had made it to Europe and other continents, including Africa are constantly being deported back to their home countries in their hundreds or become targets of violent xenophobic attacks, accused of “stealing” jobs meant for indigenes.

The solution to the global migration crisis requires a holistic, strategic all-inclusive approach, predicated on the fact that restriction of movement will only compound the present quagmire. For their part, developed countries must take into cognisance the benefits of migration on the origin and the envisioned impact in the derailment of the world economic order. For Africa, migration management initiatives must acknowledge the contributions of the African Diasporas both to their countries of origin and countries of destination.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has developed and adopted migration policies to encourage mobility of persons within the ECOWAS space hinged on three cardinal areas of intervention – rights of entry, residence and establishment in territories of member states. Beyond these initiatives, the region has experienced a revolution in migration governance with the adoption and harmonisation of travel documents. Of note is the recently adopted ECOWAS Biometric Identity Card, which is a landmark achievement in the region’s integration drive, with the principal objective of demystifying the passport as a travel document, enhancing the security architecture and encouraging mass participation in regional development.

By and large, various migration policies and measures as they stand today, have not achieved the desired deliverables. Developing countries are yet to mainstream migration as a critical sector in their national development agenda to address youth unemployment and social problems. The plethora of immigration services and other institutions charged with the statutory mandate to enforce migration laws and regulations require the capacity to properly advise governments on critical areas to bring developing countries on the same pedestal with the developed nations in reaching sustainable and mutually beneficial migration management policies that will benefit all concerned.

To mitigate the anticipated collateral damage from the global migration crisis on the African economy, African countries should re-strategise and optimise their endowment with a view to transiting from providers of raw materials to industrialised nations. The factors pushing Africans out of their countries on the dangerous search for non-existent so-called greener pastures abroad must be addressed.

• Elumelu PhD, is Principal Programme Officer at the ECOWAS Free Movement and Tourism Directorate.