West Africa Moves Towards Biometric Identity Cards
Nigeria - The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission and its Free Movement and Tourism Directorate is hosting a High-Level Immigration and Consular Officials Meeting this week (24-26 February) in Dakar, Senegal.
The meeting will focus on enhanced security features of the ECOWAS Biometric Identity Card. The goal is improved migration data exchange and the advancement of free movement facilitation in the region.
The three-day event brings together Heads of ECOWAS Member States’ Immigration and Consular Services; ECOWAS Trade, Customs, Industry and Free Movement Commissioner and Department officials; and other government experts and international organizations, including IOM.
West Africa is one of Africa’s most mobile regions. Intra-regional migration represents a large part of its cross-border movements, and has widely been recognized as key to the region’s economic growth and stability. Therefore, the need to facilitate bona fide movement and restrict irregular border crossing, to tackle subsequent security challenges, is of increased importance to the ECOWAS Commission and its Member States.
In addressing this need, ECOWAS and its Member States have decided on the development of an ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card to be used as a travel document within the region, in place of the ECOWAS Travel Certificate, which will cease to be produced.
The new card was a key recommendation of the ECOWAS Heads of Immigration meeting held last December in Dakar. The introduction of the card was then adopted by the Member States at its Heads of State and Authority meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, at the end of 2014.
IOM is supporting this week’s ECOWAS travel documents meeting within the immigration and border management component of the European Union (EU) and ECOWAS-funded project: Support to Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa (FMM West Africa) and its travel document harmonization activity.
“As part of the project, in 2014 IOM carried out an expert assessment to analyse the current status of the ECOWAS Biometric Identity Card development and to provide recommendations for a way forward. We see this as a continuation of our long-term support to the ECOWAS Commission for its biometric identity card initiative,” said IOM Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Carmela Godeau.
FMM West Africa is funded jointly by the EU and ECOWAS, and implemented by a consortium of partners – IOM, ICMPD and ILO.
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