Opening Remarks Presented by Kemi Okenyodo, Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation
Migration is clearly a leading development challenge facing the world today; indeed the whole world is considered to be in motion with massive population movements both within the regions and also across the regions of the world. Some forms of migration are conspicuous – the world cannot fail to notice the unprecedented and often suicidal movements of persons from Sub-Saharan Africa towards the developed regions of the world. On the other hand, the interconnectedness of some communities across national borders means that crossing international boarders is no more complicated than a casual stroll down the street. Yet between the international manifestations of migration on the one hand and the inconspicuous flows of migration across borderlands is the relatively stable and popular migrations within a given region.
In all its manifestations, migration is an important security factor for three important reasons: a) that international migration exposes travelers to an array of specific security challenges which they would not have otherwise faced in their places of regular abode; b) communities to different security risk factors occasioned by the flow of migrants within a given territory; c) the intersection between the migrant and the locals are sometimes accompanied by crimes and criminality. Beyond these and other challenges of migration, the world as we know it today depends on migration to achieve the interspersing of cultures, goods, services and peoples.
West Africa is a migrating region with migration routes and traditions dating to pre-colonial period when vast empires and kingdoms coexisted across the lines that would later become the national boundaries we face today. Beyond the historic legacies of migration, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has devoted much of its 40 year existence to promoting free movement of persons and goods across national boundaries in West Africa. Unfortunately, the framework provided by ECOWAS has not been fully utilized as regional travel remains plagued by numerous challenges.
The CLEEN Foundation, benefited from a grant support from the Open Society Foundations which enabled it to conduct a study that seeks to probe the intersection between migration and security and how these play out in the borders. Between 2013 and 2014 we conducted interviews in seven international borders in the region. In the first instance we followed the migration route cutting across Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana and then explored the corridors between landlocked Mali and Burkina Faso with Cote d’Ivoire.
The study recognized that not all border users are travelers, as such the sample size interviewed included drivers, passengers, security agents amongst others. You will see in the review of the findings that migration is big business in the region – there are more people crossing national boundaries in the region on foot than those using bicycles, perhaps this is indicative of the non-formal structure of migration I mentioned earlier.
We are here today to share the findings of our research with the hope that it would stimulate reflections and discussions on the important topic of migration in our region. We hope that the discussions here will benefit from the different discussions going on in your different organisations and networks and also that the conclusions from here will go on to enrich future discussions. It is our hope that arising from here, we would continue to network and work together in the future. On our part, we have developed from this study a rich dataset composed with responses of travelers and border users in seven countries. We look forward to working with you to further disseminate the findings amongst different stakeholders.
Summary of Key Findings