UN Migration Agency Organizes Regional Seminar on Mixed Migration in West Africa

Capacity Building

Dakar – On 27 September IOM, the UN Migration Agency, organized a regional seminar on mixed migration and the protection of vulnerable migrants in the regional economic union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Dakar, Senegal.

In the West African context, mixed migration refers to complex population movements driven by multiple factors, comprising economic migration, human trafficking and forced displacement. Mixed migration flows present different, but not exclusive, protection needs during migrants’ journeys.

The seminar, bringing together 35 participants from, amongst others, ECOWAS Member States, international donor partners, and international governmental and non-governmental agencies from the region, aimed to promote a common understanding of both the challenges and opportunities in improving migrant protection in the ECOWAS space and to identify protection gaps existing in the region.

Originating from West Africa, the Central Mediterranean Route (CMR) is the most dangerous migration flow in the world. The route is used every year by thousands of mostly West African migrants trying to reach North Africa and Europe. In 2016, eight in 10 adolescents with secondary education and nine in 10 adolescents with no education reported exploitation during their journey. Ensuring the protection of people on the move through a coordinated approach is therefore essential for a comprehensive and efficient migration management strategy.

“Harrowing tales of West African migrants trying to reach Europe through the Central Mediterranean Route shed light on an unacceptable situation and protection gaps facing the most vulnerable persons along the routes,” said Michele Bombassei, IOM Regional Thematic Specialist on Migrant Assistance in West and Central Africa.

“It is time to develop transnational protection systems to ensure basic rights for vulnerable persons regardless of their nationality or migratory status,” he added.

Protection of migrants refers to all activities aimed at respecting the human rights of migrants and ensuring that vulnerable persons have access to shelter, health care and education, among other services.

During the seminar, the latest research findings on protection were presented to the audience. IOM and Altai Consulting presented their latest report on the existing protection systems in four countries (Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Ghana, and Senegal) and the challenges in their service provision to migrants. Save the Children together with the Mixed Migration Hub presented its study exploring the vulnerability of children on the move and the legal frameworks affecting child mobility in the region. Research presented by Migration Hub analyzed recent youth reintegration efforts in Nigeria and the Regional Working Group on Child Protection presented the recently adopted ECOWAS Strategic Framework on Child Protection.

“Developing protection systems in the region that provide migrants access to justice and lifesaving assistance is essential,” said Marie-Eve Boyer Friedrich, Human Rights Officer at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The project Protecting Vulnerable Migrants in West and Central Africa, funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the State Department of the Government of the United States, aims to reinforce the capacities of regional institutions, national governments and international bodies in managing mixed migration and ensuring the respect of migrants’ rights in West and Central Africa.

For more information, please contact Florence Kim at the IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Tel: +22178 620 62 13, Email: fkim@iom.int

  • “Be brave, brother” written by a migrant in a transit center in Northern Niger, along the Central Mediterranean Route. Photo: IOM/Michele Bombassei

  • Entrance of a protection center in Niger, one of the main transit countries along the Central Mediterranean Route. Photo: IOM/Amanda Nero

  • Truck carrying irregular migrants in Niger, one of the main transit countries along the Central Mediterranean Route. Photo: IOM/Amanda Nero