By Williams Adejumo

The two-day West African Media Migration Summit ended in Lome, Togo on Wednesday with a call to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to find a solution to the continued enslavement of her citizens in the Middle East as the Nigerian former Ambassador to Singapore and member pointed the ways of out of migration menace.

The conference was organized by the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) headquartered in Nigeria with over 300 journalists across the globe covering migration matters in partnership with the Organization Pour l’intégration Africaine (OAI), Lome, Togo led by Dr Williams Azuma Ijoma to enhance media capacity and stakeholders on migration trends and dynamics.

The event had in attendance over 70 participants apart from those that participated virtually and all were presented with certificates of participation while dignitaries like Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria, Onyeama Geoffrey; the former Nigerian Ambassador to Singapore. Bolaji Alade Akinremi; Dr Williams Azuma Ijoma from Togo, Hon Christian Bankole and Dr Shehu-Hammad Yekeen from Benin Republic and Ambassador Blessing C. Gozi-Anyaokei were honored with awards for their roles on migration matters and societal developments.

The President JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi, while presenting the communique of the summit urged the ECOWAS leadership led by President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana to pay more attention to migration trends as Africa worked towards agenda 2063.

Ajibola pointed out that the purpose of the summit was “not to cast aspersion on any government or countries rather we are here to learn some basic principles of migration and jointly proffer solutions to the varied challenges militating against our growth as a people despite the enormous human resources that are abound in our territories.

“Migrants from Western Africa are seeking employment and better economic opportunities. The reality is that “economic hardship”, “poverty” and “better business prospects” were the dominant reasons why Africans emigrate elsewhere, sadly the Middle East countries have continued to take advantage of these shortcomings to maltreat and subject mostly the women to untoward hardship under the Kafala system of employment over the years.”

“The ECOWAS must adjust to the reality by improving the economic wellbeing of her people to limit the urge for desperate and irregular migration leading to death in the desert and on the Mediterranean Sea on one hand and slavery especially in the Middle East” he said.

Delivering a keynote address titled Media and Diaspora Matters, Ambassador Bolaji Alade Akinremi, the former Nigerian Ambassador to Singapore noted that Nigeria reportedly accounted for about 51% of the total African migrant population, with an average number of more than 20 million people has put in place machinery to strengthen for implementation of migration-related programmes and projects.

 The implementation he said would entail technical assistance, capacity building of technical experts from various Ministries/Agencies such as Ministries of Justice, Interior, Labour, Trade, Nigeria Immigration Service, NAPTIP, NDLEA and National Commission for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons,

 “The only way migration can be profitable is when it is regulated and regular in accordance with the international laws and best practices. I want to encourage all of us, particularly the media professionals, to do more on regular migration advocacy because many of the Africans who are into irregular migration through the unapproved routes like the desert and the Mediterranean Sea always end up in sorrow and death. These, we must prevent through our work by shining the light on the benefits of regular migration and the perils of the irregular option” he said.

Member, African Union Labour Migration Advisory Committee and Principal Consultant to the Sierra Leonean Government on migration matters, Dr Princess Asie Kabuki Ocansey from Ghana, urged African leaders to initiate a multilateral platform to negotiate decent work with the Middle East leaders for the migrants starting with the ECOWAS.

According to information gathered by the Slice of Labour, a subset of Nekotech Center of Excellence Ghana, it estimated that Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Morocco, Tunisia and Chad had 2,479,365, 656, 603, 27,070, 25, 965, 20101, 14,535, 13, 704, 9,023, 7,488 women migrants respectively sold to slavery as at 2017.

She suggested to the ECOWAS and other regions on the continent to completely ban illegal labour recruitment and uncertified recruitment agents and agencies and called for adoption of 10 keys of migration.

The keys according to the SOS research included dialogue and agreement, awareness, cooperation, interference, safety law and order, quality recruitment, certification and settlement, return and reintegration, financial security.

Christian Bankole, from Benin Republic said all hands must be on the deck to address job opportunities for youths to curb irregular migration.

In his own submission, Abdulwaheed, former President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists and Federation of West African Journalists, now Commissioner for Information, Ogun State, Nigeria, he admonished the media professionals to lead by example with their conducts and compliance to the immigration rules in every country, shun sensationalisms, and report migration with human face and lead advocacy against irregular migration.

Professor Byron E. Price, the Global Director, Diaspora Innovation Institute & Professor of Public Policy and Administration—Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, USA  called for more opputunities for the youths and noted that although the Mediterranean Sea crossings dropped 20 percent in 2020 to 81,502 arrivals with African migrants comprising roughly half of those numbers, he however said the border closures in 43 of Africa’s 54 countries in 2020 have created more challenges for migrants traveling regionally for work.

“These closures have trapped many migrants in unsafe situations and forced others to take migration routes that are more dangerous. Moreover, detentions and forced deportations from Algeria, East Africa, and the Middle East have left many migrants stranded in foreign countries”

Debbie Gahan, CO-Founder GepCare Foundation urged themedia partitioners in their reportage to encourage the government to continue to strengthen the capacity to curb this irregular migration and human trafficking “through legislation, better coordination among law enforcement agents, inter-country cooperation, improved victim support and protection services and rehabilitation of victims.

Other participants at the event included Dr Isaac Ajijola Abiodun, Director of Studies ESCAE University, Benin Republic, Didger Assogba, the Publisher Togo Breaking News, Mr Yves Aubaud Colibri-Afrique-France, JIFORM WEST African secretary, Biran.S.  Jobe from The Gambia, and Dr Aminu Raimi, from Benin Republic, Prince Akinwale Ojomo, the CEO OF Diaspora Innovation Institute, Africa.

President, Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM), Ajibola Abayomi (left) presenting the African Diplomatic Award to the former Nigerian ambassador to Singapore, Bolaji Alade Akinremi at the West African Media Migration Summit in Lome Togo on June 22, 2021 while Hon Christian Bankole from Benin Republic watches from the right

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