Midrand, South Africa – On the date of the one-year anniversary of the shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa, in which over 360 African migrants lost their lives, parliamentarians from Africa and Europe met in Midrand, South Africa, to discuss migration within Africa and between Africa and Europe, and its implications for development. They convened at the “High Level Seminar on Migration and Development”, hosted by the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and co-organised by AWEPA. This Seminar was held on occasion of AWEPA’s 30-year anniversary, which coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the PAP. Participants included members of the Pan-African Parliament, several of Africa’s regional parliamentary bodies and national parliaments, European parliamentarians-members of AWEPA, as well as academics, international organisations and civil society. The seminar was organised under AWEPA’s MDG programme with the support of the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).
While migration has always been a part of human existence, today’s migration trends are striking in their scale. Sub-Saharan Africa experiences the largest South-South movement of people in the world, where most of these flows are cross-border. Nearly two-thirds of African migrants move to another country within the same region, while the rest move mainly towards Europe. As a matter of fact, migratory flows from Africa currently make up the largest share of migration into Europe.
In 2007, the International Organization for Migration estimated that there were approximately 4.6 million registered African migrants living in Europe. Irregular migrants are many more. Many of these migrants are women who are more vulnerable to abuse during travel and face higher chances of discrimination upon arrival. 2014 is a record year for irregular migration, with 160 000 arrivals in the first nine months of the year and a continuously rising death toll with more than 2 500 people reported as dead or missing.
Gathering in Midrand, parliamentarians from Africa and Europe stressed the urgency to act to protect the human rights of migrants, while capitalising on the potential of migration for development, as well as the need to strengthen the dialogue between host countries and countries of origin.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Graça Machel, Chair of AWEPA’s Eminent Advisory Board, stressed the importance of the cultural and socio-economic diversity inherent in migration and especially its potential to propel the economies of Africa into the 21st century. AWEPA’s President, Ms. Smet, echoed this message, while providing a European perspective and touching upon the gendered aspects of migration, which are often overlooked. The President of the Pan-African Parliament, Hon. Bethel Amadi, called for stronger policies to manage increasing migration flows spurred by population growth and youth unemployment.
While firmly condemning irregular migration and in particular the criminal actions of migrant traffickers and smugglers, parliamentarians committed to work across parties and with national executives to strengthen legal means for safe migration and greater mobility of persons according to labour market needs. It was recognised that, if well managed, migration is a powerful enabler of economic growth, social mobility and empowerment which must therefore be taken into adequate account in the post-2015 development framework.
One key message emerging from the seminar is that politicians have a pivotal role to play in the public debate on migration, to raise awareness on the positive economic and social contributions of migrants to societies, to provide a more evidence-based understanding of migration and to demystify some of those negative public perceptions on migration that do not find solid foundation in reality. Participants unanimously recognised the protection of human rights and the freedom of movement as fundamental values that should be at the forefront of the migration debate; they also recognised that all forms of discrimination/stigmatisation of migrants should be strongly opposed and addressed through legislation and sensitisation.
In a Communiqué adopted at the end of the seminar, more specific recommendations were made with regard to intra-African migration, migration between Africa and Europe, and the particular vulnerability of women migrants.
High Level Seminar – Day 1
High Level Seminar – Day 2