The ECOWAS Heads of Immigration Services have endorsed the proposal by the Nigerian government for the establishment a Migration Training Academy as part of measures to effectively manage migration and emerging trends associated with movement of persons across borders.
The final recommendations texts read out on behalf of the Immigration chiefs by the ECOWAS Head of Division Free Movement and Migration Dr. Tony Luka Elumelu on the 4th of August 2017, bordered on regional progress on the implementation of ECOWAS Free Movement Protocol effectiveness of free movement, border management, data management and sharing, regional coordination, as well as monitoring and reporting among others.
The regional Immigration heads called for the setting up of a committee to implement a strategy on the ECO visa and determine a timeframe for its convergence while stressing that all major airports in the region should be linked continuously with the data base of the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL).
Recognising the importance of the exchange of specimens of travel documents amongst Member States to aid clearance and check fraudulent use of travel documents, they maintained that all travellers (including minors) should be issued travel documents by immigration authorities while ECOWAS should adopt a common approach for the protection of children to monitor and combat abuse and human trafficking.
They also called for the inclusion of immigration in the national security architecture in Member States where applicable and the provision of dedicated counters for ECOWAS citizens alongside nationals of Member States in addition to the conduct of joint investigation to combat trans-national crimes.
Apart from suing for the establishment of a migration data management unit within ECOWAS, the chiefs recommended that a checklist on the annual assessment on Free Movement protocol should be developed and shared with Member States while an assessment on the protocol, be implemented by an independent body making sure that ECOWAS and Member States are assessed in the process.
The immigration Chiefs reviewed existing instruments and held that the architecture of ECOWAS units dealing with Migration (particularly Peace and Security, Free Movement) at the regional level should be applied also to the national level for “enhanced harmonisation”
In the same vein, they held that a regional network on migration should involve institutions from each Member State and not focal points while responsibility in this regard should be with the institutions as against individuals.
While stressing that the issuance of biometric Identity Cards in all member states should be implemented forthwith, they urged the reinforcement of civil registry system as a necessary precondition for issuance of travel documents.
Other pertinent recommendations made at the end of their meeting included the need to increase the number of female border operatives to handle migrants/vulnerable persons, deployment of technology on migrants’ information system in order to ensure effective border control/management and the necessity of elimination of extortion and corrupt tendencies amongst border operatives.
They also recommended the inclusion of migration in the national political agendas, particularly in the development of strategies and policies alongside having elaborate migration strategies/policies for all ECOWAS countries on the road to the attainment of a regional common migration policy.
The Heads of Immigration meeting wounded up with a gala night where the official version of the Report and Recommendations were signed on the heels of visits by the chiefs to the Nigerian Immigration Service headquarters and its Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Centre (CERPAC).
It was preceded by the Migration Dialogue for West Africa (MIDWA) Border Management Working Group preparatory meeting which also held at the ECOWAS Commission, Abuja, Nigeria.