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The African Development Bank, in partnership with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, is organizing a brainstorming workshop on common migration policy for ECOWAS on June 20 and 21, 2013. The workshop, which will be held at the Novotel Hotel in Dakar, Senegal, will serve to guide the development of a modern day migration policy that responds to the aspirations of the region’s citizens and that conform to present-day realities. It will bring together officials from member states and experts dealing with migration policy issues.
The 15 member ECOWAS Commission was established in May 1975 to promote an integrated socio-economic space for the region’s citizens. One of ECOWAS’ objectives is to enable the free movement of persons, goods and services. In 1979, the ECOWAS Commission adopted the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, which establishes the right of residence and establishment. The first phase of the Protocol – which became effective 1980, guaranteed free entry of citizens from Member states without visa for 90 days. The second phase of the Protocol, dealing with Right of Residence, became effective in July 1986. However, Right of Establishment is yet to come into force.
The citizens of ECOWAS are among the most mobile in the world, and trends indicate that they mainly migrate within the ECOWAS region. This trend has been formalized since the ratification of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons. In addition to the ratification of the Protocol, ECOWAS countries have introduced a common ECOWAS passport, and have abolished entry visas for Community Citizens.
While these moves have led to significant improvement in the ability of ECOWAS citizens to move across borders, recent labour and migration trends have begun to reveal gaps in the Protocol of Free Movement. This is especially so with respect to the Rights of Residency and Establishment, as well as issues of the mutual recognition of qualifications, which neither facilitate social mobility of the migrants, nor leverage migration for development both in receiving and sending countries. These issues pose a major policy challenge.
A major aim of the workshop is the streamlining of a technical and political approach as well as generating recommendations that can guide the development of a modern day migration policy that responds to the aspirations of the region’s citizens and conforms to present-day realities.
Specific objectives of the workshop are: to provide opportunity for stakeholders, including the civil society and private sector to make input into the policy-making process; to provide inputs that will help the development of the common regional Policy on Migration for the ECOWAS; to provide inputs that will guide work on the related subject of remittances; and to define modalities for the review and modernization of the Protocol on Free Movement of persons and the Rights of Residency and Establishment.