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Published On: Fri, Jun 6th, 2014

Migration and the African condition

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By Owei Lakemfa.

Many of the estimated 231.5 million migrants in the world come from Africa. So, on the issue of migration, we Africans know it, feel it, and live it. It is, therefore, an issue that is quite dear to our hearts. There is no country that we know, that is composed entirely of only its own people; for every country, it is its people, and people that have come to settle there. Migration is not a crime, it is not a sin, it is not a curse; it is part of human history and existence. In fact, migration can be beneficial to all concerned. Perhaps the most developed country in the world today, the United States, is known as a country of migrants. This is the more reason why every country has the duty to defend the socio-economic interests of migrants.

In many cases, people have had to migrate due to conflicts, climate change, low standards of living and even due to the reality of colonialism. Also, a lot of Africans have moved in search of better working conditions overseas in order to send much-needed financial aid to relatives back home, with foreign remittances making huge percentages of national annual incomes.

So a pressing challenge for all humanity is to address the causes that has led to the unregulated movement of people from their countries. This is a sure way of stemming the tide of the mass exodus of people we are witnessing. This, to us, is a better solution than increased security, harsh measures and even “out sourcing” migrants to other less privileged countries. People desperate to migrate cannot be deterred by such tactics. To confirm this, all we need do, is examine the tragedies that occur off the Italian coast of Lampedusa where annually, according to the UNHCR, at least 2,000 would-be migrants perish in its seas. These victims include women and children.

Also, in order to stem the tide and significantly reduce forced labour, the world has to squarely take on the criminality, and crimes against humanity called human trafficking. This should be checkmated at the sending, transiting and receiving countries.

Migration is a reality; we must do all we can to ensure that migrants are guaranteed their trade union and human rights at all times and in all climes. For migrants, there should be fairness in conditions of work, equal pay for equal work and a fair tax policy.

We at OATUU appeal to sending countries to be alive to their responsibilities for the protection of the interests and rights of their people both at home and abroad. We appeal to governments and employers to protect the trade and human rights of workers; any violation of these rights should be punished according to the law. Also, we ask our brothers and sisters in the Trade Union Movement across the world to organize and unionize migrants workers and ensure that the fundamental and trade union rights of migrants are guaranteed.

OATUU supports the eight components of the ILO’s future work on fair migration highlighted in the Director General’s Report. However we insist on the important role to be played by governments in collaboration with social partners on improvement of governance issues in handling migration matters. Governments should put in place practical and humane national legal framework for labour migration, bilateral agreements and multilateral systems for fair migration.

As African workers, we use this forum to appeal to African countries to speed up the regional integration of the continent so as to provide decent jobs, decent living and basic infrastructure. This will in no small way, ensure prosperity and stem the tide of migration. Also, we urge the AU and all African States to integrate migration into AU 2063 Development Agenda

On our part, OATUU will continue to promote the speedy implementation of the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community and the promotion of intra – African trade in order to ensure prosperity within the continent.

It is appropriate to conclude by stating unequivocally, that all human beings are same; we all deserve respect and should be treated equally without prejudice. This should be more so, in the case of migrants. Finally, African workers one again, call for the reform of the ILO at all levels to make it all-inclusive. It will hurt the ILO’s long term objectives and endanger its health if some parts of the world behave and carry on as if they are indigenes of the ILO while the vast majority of us are migrants.

Owei Lakemfa is Secretary General of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity [OATUU] in Accra, Ghana.

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