New Agreements Foster Regional Cooperation on Migration for Sustainable Development and Migrant Workers Rights

IOM

Government Ministers from 11 countries in East and Horn of Africa, have signed two agreements in the past week committing to work more closely to realise the benefits of migration for sustainable development and economic growth, while enhancing the protection for millions of migrant workers.

Ministers from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, and Uganda signed an agreement promising to work together to realize the potential of labour migration as a contributor to the region’s development at the 3rd Regional Ministerial Forum on Migration (RMFM) in Nairobi, Kenya on 01 April.

There are over 7.7 million migrant workers in East and Horn of Africa. In 2021 migrant workers from Sub-Saharan Africa sent back an estimated USD45 billion in remittances. According to IOM’s Africa Migration Report there are more African 21 million migrants working other African countries where they fill skills and labour shortages, do business and provide goods and services.

But labour migrants from the region face various challenges, including a lack of access to human rights, employment rights, and other social protections, such as access to the legal system and healthcare, in countries of origin, transit, and destination. They may also lack access to embassy and consular services on their journeys.

Signatories to the RMFM agreement called on Member States to ratify relevant human rights and labour laws to create a common approach on the rights of migrant workers, including improved access to protection, and ethical recruitment. They also committed to engaging countries of destination to agree on the same issues when migrants arrive.

The new agreement also seeks to address difficulties some migrants face integrating back home. Ministers agreed on the need to include such migrants in all national development plans.

RMFM technical groups will continue to look at mapping skills gaps and labour shortages, financial inclusion, and remittances, so countries can agree on needs bilaterally, following the signing.

The Chairpersonship of the RMFM also changed hands from Kenya to Ethiopia.

“As the new Chair of the RMFM, Ethiopia will take the lead in facilitating fora on migration, targeting issues regarding bilateral labour migration agreements, ethical recruitment, social welfare of migrant workers, cross-border trade, and human development – with particular emphasis on youth and women empowerment and labor migration data and statistics,” said Muferiat Kemil, Ethiopia’s Minister of Labor and Skills.

A second Ministerial agreement signed on 31 March in Nairobi, saw Ministers and senior officials responsible for labour, home affairs and immigration from the East African Community (EAC) Partner States, including Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, and newly admitted Democratic Republic of the Congo, endorse the establishment of the EAC Regional Consultative Process (RCP) on Migration.

The EAC-RCP on migration will provide a platform for regular consultations and exchange of experiences of good practices and lessons learned among countries in the region. The EAC-RCP will foster networks amongst officials from different ministries and stakeholders, greater policy coherence and coordination on migration matters in the region, with the aim of enhancing how migration can contribute to national development.

The endorsement of the EAC-RCP will foster better understanding of different perspectives on migration in the region, and the identification of shared interests and collaborative approaches to migration. In the long-term such collaboration has the potential to enhance the protection of migrants’ rights, including access to health and decent work opportunities abroad, which will help reduce poverty and lower unemployment rates among youth across East & Horn of Africa. The EAC-RCP will also help improve coordination on security matters including the smuggling of migrants, trafficking of human beings, and other cross-border crimes.

“The EAC-RCP will create a platform for information-sharing and policy dialogue dedicated to discussing specific migration issues in comprehensive manner amongst the EAC Partner States,” said Christophe Bazivomo, the Deputy Secretary General of the EAC.

On the signing of the two agreements, Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa said, “IOM stands ready to support governments in the East and Horn of Africa region to explore ways in which the outcomes of these two new agreements can be mainstreamed into migration and labour migration national strategies”

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