The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Director General António Vitorino ended his first visit to the Sahel and Senegal this week where he expressed his concern about the increasing vulnerability of local populations and migrants across the region.
On 25 February, DG Vitorino attended the G5 Sahel Summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania’s capital, where he met with the President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, to discuss IOM’s strategic engagement in the country, with specific reference to integrated border management, diaspora engagement and overall governance of migration in line with the country’s commitments to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM).
During his meeting with the President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, DG Vitorino discussed migration and development issues and pledged IOM’s support to the government in assisting internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The Director General concluded his visit to Mauritania with a meeting with the G5 Sahel Permanent Secretary, Maman Sambo Sidikou, to discuss the relevance of migration, especially transhumance and environmental migration for the Sahel, and pledged IOM’s support to the G5 Sahel Secretariat.
On Wednesday (26/02), DG Vitorino came to Senegal where he met with President Macky Sall together with the Minister of Interior, Aly Ngouille Ndiaye. They discussed the key achievements made by the country in the implementation of the GCM.
Senegal has demonstrated commitment to the Compact since the period of negotiations leading up to its adoption in December 2018. DG Vitorino expressed his hope that Senegal would continue to champion the Compact including for the upcoming Regional Review to take place at the end of this year.
Other points of discussion were the situation of Senegalese abroad, IOM’s support to youth employment initiatives in Senegal and support that IOM and the World Health Organization can provide to the country in being prepared in the face of the global spread of the corona virus.
“The Sahel is a very important region for IOM,” DG Vitorino said. “We should not look at migration from a security point of view only, but rather as a phenomenon that can help the development of countries. And, to that end, we must find the best cooperation tools between those countries.”
In the Sahel, communities face increasing pressure over access to resources aggravated by environmental degradation, and in turn exacerbating intra- and inter-communal tensions, leading to displacement and community vulnerability. In Burkina Faso alone, the number of internally displaced persons has increased eight-fold in the past year, rising from 87,000 IDPs in January 2019 to over 700,000 in February 2020.
Migration across the region is complex, and its management reveals important challenges, including the lack of data on mobility, weak border management and controls, irregular migration, human trafficking, and a recurrent need of humanitarian assistance.
However, when appropriately managed, migration can also be a strong contributor to community resilience and development. Migration fosters trade and provides employment as well as livelihood opportunities to millions of people in the region. For instance, in 2018 remittances represented about five per cent of the Sahel GDP.
“IOM’s role goes beyond the humanitarian. We should always bear in mind what the future is for all these people and look at longer terms solutions,” said IOM Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Richard Danziger.
“We must also involve Sahel youth in decision-making by creating spaces in the civic and political debate where they can voice their concerns and see them as leaders for peace and development.”
Concluding his visit, DG Vitorino reaffirmed IOM’s commitment to supporting the people in the Sahel, and to work together with authorities to strengthen local governance mechanisms.