Heads of Immigration Services commit to ECOVISA implementation
Heads of Immigration Agencies within the ECOWAS sub-region have committed to ensure that the free movement of people, goods and services in their countries is effectively implemented to enhance development.
They made the commitment at ECOWAS Head of Immigration Meeting in Accra to consolidate and expand on the recommendations reached after due consultations with Regional Experts and Stakeholders within the framework of the implementation of ECOVISA.
The meeting validated the report of the report of the Experts Meeting which was held in Accra from May 22 to 23 May 2023 as well as validated the proposed design specimen of the ECOVISA.
The Seventh Heads of ECOWAS Member States Immigration Meeting gives a further boost and facilitates the implementation of the single visa (Schengen-type) system within the ECOWAS Space which is a top priority for the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.
Addressing the meeting, Chairperson of ECOWAS Head of Immigration Meeting Pascoal Benante, said the protocol was designed to reduce barriers to Africans crossing member countries borders, but, there was still a big hindrance to most Africans, devoid of its benefits of trade, investment, cultural understanding, and scientific cooperation.
Speaking through an interpreter called for sharing of information for effective implementation of the protocol.
Benante said cited worrying developments that suggest that the protocol was only on paper but when it comes to its implementation not much has been done because citizens on the continent kept having bad experiences moving from one country to another.
He said there was the need for cooperation, collaboration, and partnership in making sure that “we implement the ECOVISA project in providing good wellbeing to our populace.”
He said there should be equal access to information by all countries because the project was significant to help develop the continent.
“To strengthen our tides, it is important that we do not only put ideas on papers, but we should make sure that we guarantee the effective implementation of what we put on paper. This (ECOVISA) is a very significant project that will help us develop. It is important that we all participate with our hearts to implement the ECOVISA”, he said.
Following the decision of the Authority of ECOWAS Head of State and Heads of government to roll out a Schengen type single visa system within the sub-region, ECOWAS has intensified efforts towards achieving this objective through the facilitation of technical engagements with Regional Experts to harmonize processes and procedures for the implementation of the ECOVISA.
The ECOVISA when implemented will not only ensure the free flow of goods and person, but also attract foreign investments and enhance tourism within the region.
Comptroller General of the Ghana Immigration Service, Kwame Asuah Takyi called for collaboration among member states to protect the land and citizens from both internal and external threats in the wake of the precarious security situation in the Sahel Region and its repercussions on Member States.
“As community of ECOWAS, we need to work towards effective collaboration and cooperation, by sharing intelligence and information, Joint training and awareness creation, human resource development in all areas of Immigration, counter terrorism and transnational crimes among others”, he said.
“It is time to integrate our various border management and control systems in order to achieve proper regional integration as the European Union member states have done by establishing the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX), which is responsible for managing the external borders of EU and Schengen Associated countries, with a harmonised controls among the European Union”, he added.
Takyi said the Meeting was taking place at a time that the Continent leaders had committed themselves to work towards the achievement of an enhanced Political, economic and Social Integration.
He said the coming into force of AfCFTA, which the African Union had articulated, through Agenda 2063, a long-term framework for enhancing an integrated prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.
He said it was, therefore, incumbent on ECOWAS Heads of Immigration and implementers of the ECOWAS Protocols on Free Movement to up their game towards proper integration of the continent’s Immigration systems, which could be a catalyst towards the achievement of Regional integration.
He said there was the need to work hard to achieve the deployment of a regional visa (ECOVISA) for migrants of third countries.
“This when done, will enhance the movement of investors towards the development of the Sub Region,” he added.
He said it was an undeniable fact that the implementation of ECOWAS Protocols on free movement within the sub region by Member States had been met with some challenges.
He said in the rapidly changing world, one of the prime issues of every state was national security and it was the responsibility of every State to protect its land and citizens from both internal and external threats.
On his part, Director of Free Movement and Migration at ECOWAS, Albert Siaw-Boateng urged the various Heads of Immigration to share their expertise on the Expert Meeting recommendations and make suitable decisions that can be passed on to the Sectoral Ministers for onward adoption.
“There may be somethings the experts may not be privy to, but all I ask is, let us be as open as possible and let us try as much as possible to make sure that we are very realistic in the discussions we have.”
The creation of a secure environment for migrants and the removal of obstacles to ease mobility particularly for Community Citizens has been a top priority for Member States which requires a concerted effort from all key actors and stakeholders especially those in charge of migration in their respective countries.
It is against this background that the Heads of Immigration platform was institutionalized to provide a common front for a harmonized implementation of all relevant texts relating to free movement and migration.
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