High-level Panel on International Migration in Africa to launch at ECOWAS Summit

“The destiny of the African youth is not at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea,” says Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, at its just ended 52nd Annual Meetings in India.

“The Mediterranean sea has become a graveyard for Africa’s youth. Every day, we see images of what would appear to be a continent racked by conflict and poverty, and people risking – often losing – their lives in an attempt to flee,” says Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development in an editorial in 2015.

Poor, hungry, desperate and misinformed youths from African countries are risking everything, including life, and are migrating to Europe, through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea to seek non-existing jobs and a better life that they dream of. Some die, some make it, others are caught and sold into slavery in places like Libya.

It is estimated that 171,000 migrants arrived in Italy from North Africa in 2015, the highest number ever recorded, which exceeds the 2014 record of 170,100, according to reports citing Italian authorities.

In 2016, the year seen as the deadliest for those trying to reach Europe by sea, the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants Project recorded 5,085 migrants and refugee deaths in the Mediterranean, compared to 3,777 in 2015 and 3,279 in 2014.

According to the IOM, 27,850 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through March 29, over 80 per cent arriving in Italy and the rest in Spain and Greece. This compares with 165,697 through the first 89 days of 2016. 655 migrants died.

The organization puts the total for this year at 3,682 migrants rescued and 171 bodies retrieved. 

The serious nature of the problem has attracted the attention of the African Union Commission (AUC) and its ally organisations like the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and a High Level Panel is being launched to address the issue.

The ECA has announced preparations for the launch of the High-level Panel on International Migration in Africa on June 6, 2017 in Monrovia, Liberia on the margins of the forthcoming ECOWAS Heads of States Summit.

According to the ECA, the Panel will be pushing migration issues to the top of policy agenda by engaging major stakeholders and partners.

“Chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the panel comprises representatives from Liberia, Canada, China, Malta, and Norway, as well as the International Labor Organization ,” it said.  

The Panel is being created from a mandate given to the AUC and the ECA during the 2016 AU Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration and the ECA Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development that was held in Addis Ethiopia.

The AUC and ECA believe that through the establishment of the Panel, the two institutions would be able to increase collaboration and cooperation among African member States, regional economic communities, and international development partners to promote migrants rights and facilitate their movement, and reduce vulnerability of migrants, especially women.

“Furthermore, the Panel will aim to work on determining the nature and patterns of inter, intra and international migration streams in Africa. It will also conduct assessments on the impact of irregular migration and skilled migration, both for countries of origin and of destination, among other related issues,” it said.

The ECA indicates that key to the work of the Panel will be to enhance the production of migration-related knowledge to support formulation of evidence-based policies; sensitize policy makers to integrate migration into national plans and strategies; and propose and advocate policies and mobilize support for practices that promote international migration for the development of Africa.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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