Why bilateral deals between nations are crucial for migrants

Friday, May 12th, 2023 08:00 | By
EAC Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki receives President William Ruto during the launch of the first “State of Migration in the East and Horn of Africa Report” at KICC Nairobi. PD/alice mburu

Lack of agreements between countries is to blame for delayed removal of detained migrants who end up being subjected to dehumanising conditions.

Bi-lateral deals between the origin and destinations will facilitate swift returns in a dignified manner for the migrants, says a report on state of migration in the East and Horn of Africa.

“Migrants therefore often remain in detention for prolonged periods of time, often with profound impacts on their mental and physical health and well-being, which later impact their socioeconomic reintegration into their community of origin,” says the report by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

 Both sending and receiving countries are therefore directed to facilitate orderly migration to enhance sustainable reintegration within the region by reducing the negative impact of detention on the mental and physical health of detained migrants.

The migration body has therefore made a raft of proposals that countries can prioritise amid the growing number of migrants in transit within the Eastern Africa region.

Sustainable reintergration

To improve orderliness in migration and sustainable reintegration in the region, IOM suggests that returning migrants must be given significant support for their sustainable reintegration in the country of origin to curb irregular migration, and they must be protected against all risks that are prevalent within the region.

IOM wants the regional economic communities to use their convening power to facilitate the adoption of regional policies regarding sustainable reintegration and encouraging member states to adopt national policies that directly link the plight of migrants to their national development plans.

For a start, the report says that the population that is more susceptible to experiencing irregular migration and suffering from the related protection risks should be identified, as well as prioritising investment in areas where the incidence of irregular outflows is highest.

 However, such countries will be required to have migration data systems in place capable of monitoring consistently return migration, irregular migration and protection risks.

To minimise the prevalence of high irregular migration within and outside the region, particularly originating from the IGAD region, IOM says that the Eastern Africa economic blocs could offer returnees new pathways and options for mobility and aim to engage other international entities which member states are favourite migrants’ destinations in bilateral agreements.

 It was particularly noted that migration governance among countries in East and Horn of Africa is proving to be an uphill task due to lack of necessary policies to guide in combating irregular migration within the Eastern Africa countries, a report has shown.

Members states are therefore being encouraged to formulate policies that address the challenges facing the return and reintegration of immigrants to their countries of origin by harmonising policy data possessed by individual countries.

According to the report, poor socioeconomic conditions in Member States, particularly in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region, are at the root cause of many irregular movements observed in the region, and are a hurdle to sustainable return and reintegration.

Out of the 744,113 movements observed by the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) in the Eastern Africa region, a significant share represented extra-regional movements, 63 per cent were movements to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) via the Eastern Route, two per cent to South Africa via the Southern Route, and another two per cent via the Northern Route to Northern Africa and Europe while the remaining 33 per cent representing movements within the East and Horn of Africa region.

Across all routes, most migrants were men at 56 per cent, followed by women at 34 per cent, while boys and girls accounted for 10 and 8 per cent respectively.

IOM states that in recent years there has been feminisation of migration globally where women, especially young, are now more than ever migrating as a means of meeting their own economic needs, as opposed to the traditional drivers of mobility of migrating to join a spouse or family abroad.

Migration governance

This trend is stemming from the demand for service workers such as domestic workers, nurses, teachers and other professions typically dominated by women.

This raises the gender factor in the equation of migration governance where actors must now interrogate the factors that limit women’s migration and mobility, examine the kind of work that women do, and the markets they access, across borders and the type of businesses they also engage in.

The report has revealed that major Regional Economic Communities such as East Africa Community (EAC) and IGAD are also operating in a vacuum since there is no policy framework to address the migration challenges across the region while the African Union is the process of creating the much needed polices of that will help the countries to resolve the problems arising from uncontrolled migration.

“There is a gap and disconnect between framework and implementation at regional and national levels. Further effort is required at continental and regional levels towards the implementation of the policy framework,” the report says. IOM says in the report that stable community with livelihood opportunities, social access and safety and security is required for orderly migration and sustainable reintegration to thrive adding that such an environment, which promotes regular, safe and orderly mobility, is currently lacking in the East and Horn of Africa region.

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