West African Observatory on Migrations meets with ECOWAS Chairman

Keywords : Climate Change And Environment Communique Migration

The President of the Republic of Togo, Chairman of ECOWAS, His Excellency Faure Essozimna GNASSINGBE, received a West African Observatory on Migrations delegation led by its Permanent Secretary, Mr. Samir ABI at the President Office in Lomé on Friday, 04 August 2017. This hearing resulted from the open letter to the Chairman of ECOWAS and the campaign for free movement in Africa coordinated by the West African Observatory on Migrations.

For 45 minutes, the delegation exchanged views with the Togolese Head of State on his priorities as head of ECOWAS, particularly on regional integration and free movement of people and goods. At the beginning of the meeting, the Permanent Secretary of the Observatory appreciated the President’s recent decision to dispose transit via the Togo-Ghana border 24 hours a day. This decision is welcomed by the Observatory as one more step towards a smooth flow of people between Togo and Ghana and as an example of good practice to be followed by all other African countries. The President of the Republic expressed the wish that the permanent opening of this border mark an increase in trade between the two countries. However, he expressed his concern about the obstacles that hamper cross-border trade between West African countries, notably the non-possession of identity cards by many ECOWAS citizens.

Following the Head of State, the Observatory’s delegation presented the practices developed by certain West African countries, which consist in giving 72 hours passes to ECOWAS citizens who lack identity cards, on payment of a fee and entitled to a receipt. This practice ensures a supply of revenue to these states which thus allows fighting against corruption and harassment at the borders. The discussions have thus continued on the possibility that one day the ECOWAS space can really resemble the Schengen area with the possibility of circulating freely without control at the borders. The Chairman of ECOWAS, while affirming this projection , spoke of the reluctance of States to open borders completely in view of security threats.

Free movement at the African level was also the subject of discussions between the Observatory’s delegation and the Togolese Head of State. For the Observatory’s delegation, ECOWAS, and in particular its current chairman, should play a more active role in the forthcoming adoption of a African Union’s protocol on freedom of movement in January 2018 during its annual assembly. In reply, the Chairman of ECOWAS, wished to reassure the delegation on the interest of all African Heads of State for free movement on the continent. He explained, however, that the heavy agenda of the meetings at the African Union (AU) Assemblies sometimes hampers discussions on the subject. In this regard, he welcomed the reforms proposed by President Kagame of Rwanda which will help to streamline the agenda of the AU meetings to make them more effective. The Observatory’s delegation expressed the wish that, following the example of Benin, the Togolese Head of State could invite his African peers to exempt African visitors to their countries from entry visas.

The Head of State of Togo deplored the tragedy of young African migrants to Europe via the routes of the Mediterranean Sea. The Observatory’s delegation emphasized that this drama could be avoided if the African populations could benefit from facilities to obtain visas in their mobility to Europe in a spirit of reciprocity to the facilities enjoyed by Europeans traveling to Africa. In view of the forthcoming European Union-African Union summit in Abidjan in November 2017, the Observatory’s delegation asked the Togolese President to act as the voice of the African youth to the European partners so that they may review their visa policy to provide legal channels for migration to Africans.

The Permanent Secretary of the West African Observatory on Migrations finally thanked the Chairman of ECOWAS for the great willingness he has shown since the beginning of his mandate to advance the cause of regional integration. While welcoming the road map drawn up by the Togolese Presidency of ECOWAS, he expressed the wish that the four priorities defined could indeed be achieved by the end of the mandate. He hoped that the opening up by the Head of State of Togo towards West African civil society, which is reflected in the meeting with the Observatory’s delegation, could set an example within ECOWAS. The President of the Togolese Republic, current Chairman of ECOWAS, reaffirmed his willingness to continue the dialogue with West African civil society throughout his mandate as President of the Community in order to meet the objective of the ECOWAS of the peoples that is at the heart of its agenda.

Issued in Lomé on 04 August 2017

For the West African Observatory on Migrations

The Permanent Secretary

Samir ABI

Source: http://www.obsmigration.org/en/statements/

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