That came to life during the ongoing conference which addresses the issues of ‘Free Movement of Persons and Transhumance in the IGAD Region,’ a meeting which is currently taking place in Arusha.
Alexio Musundo is the Addis Ababa based, director of International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, and Special Representative to Africa Union and EAC. He said the meeting creates a platform to address ways of handling movement of people, labour and capital.
“We intend to make migrants enjoy life and feel at home in countries where they move to work,” explained Mr Musundo adding that they intend to influence policies in various countries so that movement of people can follow the right channels.
Delegates attending the four-day meeting are also discussing ways of ‘Improving Opportunities for Regular,’ Labour Mobility,’ and in respect to that, representatives from ILO and IGAD wants to learn a few things from the EAC common market, regarding the proposed free movement of people, capital and labour.
The Executive Director for East African Trade Unions Federation (EATUF) Caroline Khamat Mugalla, pointed out that when people migrate from one country to another it is usually to look for opportunities, usually jobs.
“They are not criminals and it is wrong to label them as illegal immigrants on their own continent; it is therefore our duty to protect their interests,” said Ms Mugalla, adding that the federation itself has 4.5 million members.
Moving from one country to another, seeking greener pastures was described to sometimes prove to be dangerous among Africans, when proper arrangements concerning residence, work permits or contracts aren’t handled properly.
Dan Okanya is the coordinator of East Africa Employer Organization and is on view that most countries do not have regional labour migrant policies and some only have the document in draft.
“We are now here to exchange expertise and share ideas on how ILO, EAC and EGAD can work together to advocate for free movements of labour among member states,” added Okanya.
The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is made up of eight member states with a total population of 221 million between them and covering a surface area of 5.2 million square kilometres.
It was stated during the conference that for many years, the region has been affected by a combination of protracted conflicts, political instability, environmental degradation and food insecurity, which has led to poverty and underdevelopment of the region.
The region generates more refugee movements than any other area in the world; at the same time, high levels of cross border trade and temporary flows across borders are indicative of the socio-economic interdependence of these areas.
The countries in the region are also simultaneously origin, transit and destination for migrants and refugees, who are increasingly using the same routes. While data on labour migration is scarce, the majority of migratory movements are within the IGAD region or to neighbouring regions.
These flows are based in part on historical and cultural ties, as well as current global dynamics of supply and demand for workers.
Cognizant of these, IGAD and its member States have taken steps to manage and address the issue of migration in the region. The Protocol on Free Movement of Persons is enshrined in the 1996 Agreement Establishing the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).