UNHCR urges ECOWAS to tackle mixed migration

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ECOWAS HQ Abuja
ECOWAS HQ Abuja

THE United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called for more commitment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to tackle the new trend of mixed migration in the sub-region.

Mrs Liz Ahua, UNHCR’s Regional Representative to West Africa, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Uyo on Wednesday.

She explained that the new trend was the migration of ECOWAS citizens outside Africa to Western countries, particularly countries in Europe as against the past when they migrated within Africa.

The UNHCR regional representative said that the tireless drive to develop instruments, frameworks and policies would continue to guide the region in defending the masses of defenseless people.

She said it would also help create a point of convergence for the aspirations of the governors and the governed.

Ahua said that there had been established legal frameworks in the past which dealt with internal migration inside ECOWAS.

“This current flow of people going toward the west is a new dimension and I think there is a sense of awareness but there is not that similar commitment in terms of legal framework to deal with the new situation.

“I must say that much as it is an old situation, the new dimension of it requires a certain commitment.

“We are working with the government, working with the authorities to sensitise them about the gravity.

“Overall, there is commitment, there is growing awareness, there is growing power of decision to see whether these are issues that the region can master.

“Especially those that are seeking to go abroad or to better their circumstances outside the West Africa Region.

“There is a growing awareness, growing desire, growing will to support the population but it is still in the beginning stage,’’ Ahua said.

Ahua also talked about the 2019 Ambassadors’ Retreat held this week in Uyo.

She said that UNHCR was optimistic that the Ambassadors will use their positions, knowledge and experience to carry the messages of all that was discussed back to their countries.

Ahua said that it was also expected that through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of member states, the messages would be integrated to the policies of respective countries which would have a direct impact on the people.

“We are using these Ambassadors as entry points to penetrate the population and the government structures that they are dealing with.

“We believe that as ECOWAS Ambassadors who have political leverage, they can contribute to getting the message out, ‘’ Ahua said.

Ahua stressed the need for member states to take seriously the issue of statelessness as conflicts and other factors ravaging the sub-region continue to put more people at risk.

She said that domestication of international laws in the sub-region would require full engagement of all stakeholders.

Ahua said that other key partners including other UN agencies, international organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations, the media, were participating in the retreat so that they could make meaningful contributions.

She explained that the expertise of other stakeholders would enable participants come out with brilliant and doable policies, while the media would help raise awareness on the issues.

The UNHCR’s representative said that UNHCR remained committed to supporting ECOWAS member states in providing durable solutions that would alleviate the sufferings of Persons of Concern.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 2019 Ambassadors’ retreat was jointly organised by the UNHCR and ECOWAS in Uyo, Akwa Ibom. (NAN)

– Apr. 17, 2019 @ 12:35 GMT |

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