Minister of Information, Mr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, has called for increased media reportage on migration for better public appreciation of the subject matter because it has become a regional and global concern.
He said the realities and dynamics of migration in the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) sub-region makes it impossible for Ghana to ignore it impact on economic development.
“Given the contemporary migration realities and dynamics as well as global processes of urbanization, development of technology including ICT and new natural resource discoveries, Ghana cannot ignore its impact on economic development,” he added.
The Minister was speaking at the press launch of ‘ECOWAS Free Movement and Migration Project’ in Accra on Wednesday.
The project is under the title “media training and public sensitization on ECOWAS” and implemented by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in partnership with International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and the International Labour Organisation.
The European Union and ECOWAS are jointly funding the project, which seek to promote free movement and migrants rights in West Africa.
The media training and public sensitization aspect of the project is anticipated to promote knowledge and awareness of national and international frameworks for migration among frontline journalists and field correspondents.
Migration has historically played a central role in livelihood enhancement for both rural and urban populations, Abdul-Hamid said.
“From an era when the West African sub-region was largely regarded as a borderless area within which goods and people moved freely, the dynamics of migration flows in Ghana changed with the policies of successive colonial and post-independence governments,” he added.
He said by the 1980s, a ‘culture of migration’ had emerged, whereby migration to Europe and North America, had become a major coping strategy for many Ghanaians.
He said the media therefore has critical role to play in the promotion of safe, secure intra-regional migration.
However, he expressed worry that the media focus had largely dwelt on the negative consequences of migration.
“Recent media reports suggest that migrants pose a significant threat to the country’s development due to their alleged involvement in unlawful activities that result in the destruction of our natural environment – illegal mining, nomadic grazing, trading in prohibited markets, fake commodities and human trafficking,” he said.
He noted that given the magnitude of the challenge, “there is a need to create a critical mass of advocates in the media who are willing and able to provide fair and objective coverage on issues of migration.”
He said the government continue to pursue clearly defined holistic policy direction on migration in order to enable Ghana derive optimum benefits from the positive aspects and minimize the negative consequences of migration.
The Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana News Agency, Mr Rex Anann, noted that the dynamics of migration was clear that Ghana cannot escape the negative effects that came with it.
He named cross border transfer of diseases and criminal activities involving some migrants as some of the dangers unregulated migration could produce.
“But we cannot also ignore its benefits,” he added: “for example, remittances from Ghanaians abroad were around $2 billion (GHC8.7 billion) in 2016.”
He expressed the hope that the project would contribute to promoting knowledge and awareness of national and international frameworks for migration among frontline journalists.
He said there was the urgent need to build capacity of the media so that they reported on migrant issues appropriately without criminalising them.
He also argued that when journalists were well trained on the subject they would be able to establish policy gaps on migration.
“If the media is well trained on migration dynamics, I am confident they would be able to properly interrogate and investigate the issues to stimulate public discourse about triggers, policy gaps and responsibilities of state and non-state actors to address migration matters.”
“That is why it becomes important that our media is moved along to understand these issues and report effectively and appropriately,” he said.