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The ECOWAS Commission and Denmark are stepping up their collaborative efforts on Migration, peace and security.

Conferring with a 15-man Danish delegation in an exploratory meeting on the 16th of August 2017 at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, the President of the ECOWAS Commission Marcel de Souza said the need to work collectively to address the issues of irregular migration relative to peace, security and economic development in the region has become imperative.

President de Souza told the visitors that partnership is key in the renewed effort at getting to the fundamental causes of the unfortunate wave of migration across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to Europe by the youth of West Africa.

The president listed critical backgrounds of the wave to include poverty, unemployment, lack of meaningful recreation, cultural and religious barriers as well as the need to effectively police West Africa’s borders especially transit countries such as Niger Republic with a massive 1.2 kilometer border stretch.

Stressing the need to invest in the people of West Africa, he cited the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Goods and Services and canvassed a closer look at it as an instrument that encourages positive migration across the region on one hand yet fuelling irregular migration on the other.

According to the ECOWAS Commission President, 70 percent of migrations in the area happen within the region with only 9 percent heading to Europe and America and a further 6 percent move to central Africa while two-third of the population of West Africa is less than 25 years. This young group, he maintained must not be kept idle in order not to fall prey to terrorists’ recruitment.

He disclosed further that although intra community trade was $15 billion in 2016, West African countries still trade four times more with Europe than among themselves. Stressing that the right balance has to be struck, he expressed optimism that the two phased Danish development assistance covering programmes on infrastructural development, conflict prevention and resolution, citizens’ capacity building, good governance and democracy are well on course.

“Our cooperation is one of the best we have with countries of the northern hemisphere. Together we must find a solution to irregular migration by getting to the root causes of the problem which includes the motivating pull factors to leave. The economic situation leads to inflation and rise in terrorism. We need to enlighten and counsel our women and even the men on responsibilities of procreation” President de Souza added.

The president also gave a situation report on the region highlighting the natural disasters in Sierra Leone and the security challenges in some Member States such as Burkina Faso and called for assistance in this regard in view of the determination by the regional group to stay on top of the situation.

During the meeting, a rundown of the ECOWAS programme on irregular migration and a demonstration of its readiness for improved partnership with the United Nations and it’s Compact, with a holistic approach that includes cross-border initiatives, the availability of a donor’ fund basket, and a migration development dialogue was given by the ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement as represented by Mrs Kinza Jawara-Njai
The leader of the Danish delegation and Minister for International Development Ms Ulla Tornaes stressed that Denmark has a comprehensive approach to peace and security for Africa and ECOWAS and is now exploring ways to leverage on it with the backing of the Danish Parliament.

Supported by the Danish Minister for Migration and Integration Inger Stojberg, the Danish delegation while acknowledging the role of ECOWAS in fostering peace and security in the region, also harped on the interconnectedness of irregular migration with labour, mobility, productivity and reintegration while expressing support for all measure that will make citizens lead a productive life as against blind migration.

Noting the importance of maritime security to trade, growth, prosperity and reintegration, the delegation urged focus from ECOWAS in this regard.

Minister Tornaes said further “It is important to deal with the demographic development. There is a close relation between poverty and fertility rate but we want your young people to have hope for the future”.

The Danish delegation also raised issues bordering on enactment of laws to discourage early marriages, high fertility rate among others.

On hand for the exploratory discussion which held under the Danish cooperation framework were the vice president of the ECOWAS Commission Edward Singhatey, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Finance Mr. Kebbe Ahmed Kouroma and the Ambassador of Denmark to Nigeria Torben Gettermann.

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