IOM Supports ECOWAS Meeting on National Biometric ID Cards, Task Force on Irregular Migration

Integrated Border Management

Nigeria - IOM, through its European Union (EU)-funded project “Support to Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa (FMM West Africa),” is today supporting an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission Heads of Immigration meeting on irregular migration and roll-out of the National Biometric ID Cards in Niamey, Niger.

The two-day meeting, which began yesterday, is in the context of high mobility from and within West Africa, where intra-regional and irregular migration feature prominently in the political agendas of most West African governments.

Facilitating South-South migration, which is seven times greater than migration flows from West African countries to other parts of the world, and tackling irregular migration to Europe, is therefore a common twofold challenge in the region.

While intra-regional migration has been widely recognized as key to the region’s economic growth and stability, ECOWAS has identified the need for the rapid development of a national biometric identity card and FMM West Africa seeks to support its effective implementation, to be used as travel document in place of the travel certificate in ECOWAS Member States.

In parallel, in 2015 a million migrants, many of them from West Africa, crossed the Mediterranean and some 3,700 died. In order to protect migrants and combat human smuggling and better manage external ECOWAS borders, the ECOWAS Free Movement Directorate plans to set up a Task Force on irregular migration.

“This meeting presents an opportunity to discuss the response to the opportunities and challenges related to migration and mobility. Migration is a shared responsibility of countries of origin, transit and destination. By weighing the modalities of member state-level roll-out of the Biometric ID card, ECOWAS Heads of Immigration and partners will promote safe and facilitated regional cross-border travel of ECOWAS citizens. Further, the meeting will hear various options and propose concrete joint initiatives, including a Task Force, to combat irregular migration, fight trafficking and smuggling, and protect vulnerable migrants in the region,” said FMM West Africa Programme Coordinator ad interim Kristiina Lilleorg.

The meeting brings together ECOWAS member states Heads of Immigration, the ECOWAS Commission, Spanish and French government representatives, FMM West Africa project staff, IOM Niger and the European Union Delegation in Niger.

The meeting will be followed by a two-day visit to Agadez, a primary transit point for irregular migrants crossing from West Africa to Europe, where the Task Force will be piloted, to meet with local authorities and visit the IOM Transit Centre. The Task Force will also be implemented in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal.

The Heads of Immigration meeting is part of the FMM West Africa project, an EU-funded project implemented by the Consortium of Partners (IOM, ICMPD and ILO) under the leadership of the ECOWAS Commission. The project seeks to maximize the development potential of free movement of persons and migration in West Africa.

For further information, please contact Kristiina Lilleorg at IOM Abuja, Tel: +234 81 78062848 or + 234 (0) 80375-0178, Email:

ECOWAS Heads of Immigration meet in Niamey. © IOM 2016