The founders of the Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS) recognised that the success of the economic development efforts of the region was dependent on the creation of a common market, facilitated by safe, secure and unhindered movement of the region’s citizens. To this end, a number of legal frameworks have been developed and processes instituted to facilitate their implementation in member states. Notwithstanding the existence of the repertoire of instruments for free movement, their utility is greatly reduced because of a number of challenges that includes lack of awareness of the instruments by majority of the citizens of member states and a lack of effective implementation by member-states. Ignorant and unaware of the rights and responsibilities, a majority of the region’s populations tend to be exploited and suffer abuse in varied forms.
In its bid to promote safer migration in West Africa, the ECOWAS-Spain Migration Project was initiated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD) in 2014. The Project, which is a combination of training activities and the provision of information on opportunities for employment within the region provides training to frontline security officials such as personnel of immigration services and editors of media houses as well as provide information on the labour laws of the various countries through a web portal. These activities are in a bid to promote intra-regional labour migration.
The project is based on the assumption that knowledge of the various international human rights provisions and the ECOWAS instruments that promote the free movement of persons as well as specific protection of vulnerable groups, such as displaced populations and refugees, is essential for the promotion and protection of the rights of the afore-mentioned groups. Such knowledge is also necessary in informing the destination choices of regular migrants.
Despite the existence of a number of legal and policy frameworks for the protection of migrants in the West African region, there is a general lack of awareness of these instruments. As a result, their utility is considerably reduced, leading to a gap between the theoretical provisions of the frameworks and their actual application. The challenge can be attributed to the facts that: (1) the legal documents are not always presented in reader-friendly formats; (2) efforts to disseminate the contents of the documents are weak (publication and distribution tend to be equated to dissemination); (3) although certain institutions are charged with implementation of the provisions, personnel do not always receive sufficient training to effectively implement the instruments; and (4) the absence of a platform for accessing information on the various national policies on immigration, labour and requirements for settlement, makes it difficult for would-be migrants to make informed destination choices. Ignorant and unaware of the rights and responsibilities, a majority of the region’s populations tend to be exploited and suffer abuse in varied forms.
To this end, the project seeks to enhance the capacity of migration management officials to offer needed guidance on migration procedures as well as develop proactive programs on safe migration. It also aims at enhancing the skills of personnel on how to deal with migrants forced to move because of natural and man-made complex challenges and how to report on and project such issues in the media.In a further step, the project also aims at managing a web portal which will serve as an information platform for migration-related decision-making and promote safer migration among Community members.