Nigeria: ECOWAS Chief wants better data sharing mechanism for migration management

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - As part of the trans-national holistic approach aimed at dealing with the problems associated with migration, irregular migration and border management issues, the ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel de Souza, has drawn attention to the necessity of setting up a regional data sharing mechanism.

The ECOWAS Commission President made his case at the opening of the ECOWAS Heads of Immigration Meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, on Thursday.

Owing to the fact of West Africa not being spared the menace of terrorism, and bearing in mind the security implications of the citizens’ implementation of the protocol on Free Movement and Right of Residence, President de Souza urged participants, drawn from the 15 Member States of the region, to also urgently develop an improved management mechanism of both migratory and irregular migration flows.

He explained that the regional data sharing mechanism can be set up on a consensual basis through the elaboration of guidelines for the establishment of the migration database, the identification of the data to be transmitted, delimitation of roles and responsibilities at the national and regional levels, as well as rules on data protection and administrative procedures.

Also speaking on the harassment of the citizens of the Community at the border crossings which constitute a major handicap to the free movement of persons, the President made appealed to all Member States to create an “ECOWAS corridor” in the region’s ports, airports and land borders in order for ECOWAS nationals to “simply present their ECOWAS passports or identity cards, just like elsewhere, until the technology allows us to install electronic readers”.

In this regard, he referred to the biometric features included in the ECOWAS passport and identity card as devices conducive to the collection of passenger data while hoping that the meeting will adopt measures to accelerate the operationalization of the biometric identity card of ECOWAS adopted since 2014 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

Expressing profound gratitude to Nigerian authorities for the support given to ECOWAS thus far, President de Souza maintained that such support is a “strong signal of the commitment to the strengthening of regional integration and the success of a cherished wish of the founding fathers of ECOWAS regarding the free movement of persons, goods, capital and services”

Noting the concern by the ECOWAS Commission about the spectacle of deaths in the Sahara and the Mediterranean as West African citizens attempt to cross continental borders to Europe (a worrying situation that challenges the capabilities of origin, transit and destination countries, in dealing with the dynamics of emerging global migrations trends), the president called for the fashioning out of innovative ways of meeting the humanitarian and security problems associated with the phenomenon.

He stated that even though the diverse nature of the phenomenon does not always guarantee the respect of the human person in certain cases, the cooperation between ECOWAS and partner organizations can meet a number of imperative requirements in this regard. He maintained that holistic solutions must therefore be found and migrants’ rights are safeguarded without compromising the legitimate concerns of destination countries and with a “vigilant eye on the Security imperative”

The President cited examples of several initiatives taken as a continental response to the challenges since the field visit in 2015 by a joint delegation of the African Union, ECOWAS and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Also mentioned were earlier collaborative initiatives in Algeria and Libya.

De Souza was corroborating the broad position taken by Nigeria’s Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to the effect that the availability of comprehensive information on population movements within our Community will contribute to the effectiveness of the fight against cross-border crime and make it possible to address humanitarian problems more effectively.

Prof. Osinbajo, represented by the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Onyema Ugochukwu, at the ocssion, noted that the meeting was part of the ongoing efforts at strengthening the bond of unity among member states stressing that “in this global village that we now have it is you, immigration officials that have the whole wide world in your hands”

He listed the tasks before the heads of Immigration to include the elimination of all unnecessary encumbrances to the attainment of the goals of free movement while looking at the possibility of seamless movement of our citizens within ECOWAS to facilitate trade, using the latest technology to ensure the safety of citizens and sharing of robust intelligence.

He admitted that the region has transhumance issues and stressed that a sub-regional mechanism has to be found to intervene. The regional engagement with the EU, he noted, is very important because of the large number of people drifting across to Europe.

The Acting president also announced the donation of a large piece of land in Kebbi state of Nigeria for the establishment of the Migration training Academy in furtherance of Nigeria’s overall assistance in the management of movement of persons.

The Comptroller- General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, urged that the mechanism be used to find common solutions, compare notes and share operational knowledge, and experience while strengthening capacity cooperation in the implementation of the protocol of Free Movement and utilizing synergies towards robust intelligence gathering, assist in community policing of borders thus allowing the Immigration chiefs to work as a team to save lives of citizens who are dying from the misadventure of crossing the Sahara.

Present at the occasion were the chairmen of the Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Interior as well as a large crop of immigration officials. Also on hand were the Secretary-General of the ECOWAS parliament, Dr. Nelson Magbagbeola, the President of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Justice Jérôme Traoré, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner, Trade, Custom and Free Movement, Laouali Chaibou, ECOWAS ambassadors and a host of members of the diplomatic corps.
-0- PANA VAO 5Aug2017

05 august 2017 11:34:07

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