By Ade Ade
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) needs to exercise strong political will and put in place unified structure to implement immigration policies for greater economic benefits arising from activities of migrants in the region, Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) has stated.
Head of Public Affairs, GIS, Superintendent Michael Amoako-Atta made assertion while delivering a presentation at an international virtual summit titled Migration: Remedies for Covid-19 and the economy held via zoom on Friday.
The event was organised by the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) comprising of over 200 journalists across the continents reporting migration issues in nations.
President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi, in his remark reiterated the commitment to update migration journalists both within and outside ECOWAS territories with various migration and diaspora policies of nations in order to engage strengthen development adding that migrants were economic developers worldwide.
He commended the immigration officer for his patriotism and commitment to immigration issues in Ghana.
Delivering a paper titled migrants and border management and implications for the West African economy, the officer also noted that there was need among agencies of government to promote national and unified successes against insecurity especially terrorism and the current pandemic instead of basking on institutional supremacy.
Amoako-Atta said it was high time ECOWAS abolished impediments obstructing access migrants access to transact safe and legal transactions in any country of their choice within the region which he observed were being limited by individual’s nations immigration laws negating the protocol set by the regional body.
“For instance any ECOWAS citizens should be free to live anywhere in the region without permit after acquiring the region’s biometrics and passport. We need more collaborations in West Africa to reap benefits accruable from migrants and migration in all.”
On security, he said: “This is the time to resolve border security agencies differences and invest more in security and border management by putting in place appropriate infrastructure and training for immigration, customs, police and other agencies involved in border matters.
“One of the greatest lessons learnt from Covid-19 in relation to border control is the need to leverage on technology by installing CCTV along our borders for effective monitoring and intelligence sharing from various bases” he said.
While calling for improved capacity building for ECOWAS immigration border patrol team, he noted that border closure during the Covid-19 lockdown had allowed for close monitoring of porous border posts within most West African states.
Ghana immigration according to him during the lockdown was able to record 2254 arrests, prevented 846 Ghanaians from exiting the country and made 2221 interceptions at border posts making a total of 5321 arrests.
Of the lots, six Nigerians were among a group intercepted and tested positive to the Covid-19 at Aflao border post, and a Togolese was also picked at Sampa, another border town in Ghana.
All of them were repatriated to the their respective nations.
To safe guard health of migrants, Amoako-Atta called for the training of immigration officers across the regional states to double as frontline health workers where such were not available saying health of nations too critical to be abandoned.