East and Horn of Africa Government Ministers Sign Key Agreements on Regional Cooperation, Collaboration on Migration and Migrant Workers’ Rights
Nairobi, Kenya– Government Ministers from 11 countries across East and Horn of Africa, including Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, and Uganda have signed two important agreements committing to work more closely to realise the benefits of migration for sustainable development and economic growth in the region, whilst enhancing the protection of migrant workers.
At the 3rd Regional Ministerial Forum on Migration (RMFM) which took place in Nairobi on March 28 to April 1, Ministers signed an agreement promising to work together to realize the potential of labour migration as a contributor to the region’s development. There are over 7.7 million migrant workers in East and Horn of Africa. In 2021 migrant workers from Sub Saharan Africa sent back an estimated USD45 billion in remittances in 2021. Contrary to popular belief and according to IOM’s Africa Migration Report there are more African 21 million migrants traveling to and working in each other’s countries on the continent rather than trying to exit Africa for overseas. Thus, filling skills and labour shortages, engaging in business, trade, and providing goods and services to each other.
But labour migrants both at home and overseas face various challenges, including a lack of access to human rights, employment rights, and social protections, such as access to the legal system and healthcare in countries of origin, transit, and destination. They may also be hindered from accessing embassy and consular services along their journeys.
By signing the agreement, Ministers called on Member States to ratify relevant human rights and labour laws to create a common approach on the rights of migrant workers, including improved access to protection, ethical recruitment, including registration of recruitment companies. They also committed to working more closely together to engage countries of destination to agree on the same issues once migrants arrive.
Returning migrants to East and Horn of Africa and their families may also face difficulties returning and re-integrating back home, which the new agreement seeks to address. Ministers agreed on the need to include such migrants in all national development plans.
Following the newly signed agreement, RMFM technical groups will continue to look at mapping skills gaps and labour shortages, so countries can agree on needs bilaterally. And on how to harmonize easing the sending of remittances and expand financial inclusion of migrants.
In order to enhance ownership of the RMFM agenda and objectives in promoting and raising awareness on labour migration issues, RMFM Ministers also agreed to co-ordinate more closely with the two regional economic blocs, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the East African Community (EAC), and the AU, who are behind the Free Movement of Persons Protocol (FMP), Common Market Protocol (CMP) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which work to facilitate movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration in accordance with the Pan African Vision of “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa” enshrined in Agenda 2063.
The Chairpersonship of the RMFM also changed hand during the meeting in Nairobi from Kenya to Ethiopia.
“We have witnessed an increase in the number of migrant workers, especially the youth, who are seeking employment opportunities in international markets where their skills are in demand. This, therefore, calls for all of us to effectively manage labour migration and ensure protection of all migrant workers from our region,” noted Simon Chelugui, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection.
Muferiat Kemil, Ethiopia’s Minister of Labor and Skills, said this about taking on the Chairpersonship.
“As the new Chair of the RMFM, Ethiopia will take the lead in facilitating fora on migration, targeting issues regarding bilateral labour migration agreements, ethical recruitment, social welfare of migrant workers, cross-border trade, and human development - with particular emphasis on youth and women empowerment and labor migration data and statistics. The RMFM will strengthen inter and intra-regional cooperation, on labour migration governance, regional integration, and social cohesion, as well as utilize common approaches to devise and implement harmonized labour migration policies.”
A second Ministerial agreement was also signed on 31 March, which saw Ministers and senior officials responsible for labour, home affairs and immigration from the EAC Partner States, including Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania, along with newly admitted Democratic Republic of Congo, endorse the establishment of the EAC Regional Consultative Process (RCP) on Migration.
The newly agreed EAC RCP on migration will provide a platform for regular consultations and exchange of experiences of good practices and lessons learned among countries it the region. The RCP will foster networks amongst officials from different ministries and stakeholders, greater policy coherence and coordination on migration matters in the region, with the aim of enhancing how migration can contribute to national development.
The endorsement the EAC-RCP will help better understanding of different perspectives on migration in the region, and the identification of shared interests, and collaborative approaches to migration. In the long-term such collaboration has the potential to enhance the protection of migrants' rights, including access to health and decent work opportunities abroad, which will help reduce poverty and lower unemployment rates among youth across East & Horn of Africa.
The EAC-RCP will help improve coordination on security and help address the smuggling of migrants, trafficking of human beings, and other cross-border crimes. This will be achieved through bringing together different ministries and stakeholders through the RCP mechanism, and piloting and initiating regional migration initiatives that are evidence-based and with a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach.
It is also hoped that the EAC-RCPs will work to help enhance partnerships with other global platforms including in the follow-up and review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
“The RCP will create a platform for information-sharing and policy dialogue dedicated to discussing specific migration issues in comprehensive manner amongst the EAC Partner States," said Christophe Bazivomo, the Deputy Secretary General of the EAC.
On the signing of the two agreements, Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa said, “IOM stands ready to support governments in the East and Horn of Africa region to explore ways in which the outcomes of these two new agreements can be mainstreamed into migration and labour migration national strategies in the coming years, and feed into the upcoming International Migration Review Forum on the Global Compact for Migration.”
The RMFM is an inter-state information-sharing and policy dialogue forum for countries in the region to discuss and agree on labour migration governance and harness the benefits of labour mobility in the region and was established in 2020. It is expected that through it, governments in the region will jointly address labour migration policies, foster labour mobility and protect the fundamental human, labour, and social rights of migrant workers migrating within and from the continent.
Regional consultative processes on migration (RCPs) are state-led, ongoing, regional information-sharing and policy dialogues dedicated to discussing specific migration issue (s) in a cooperative manner among States from an agreed region and may either be officially associated with formal regional institutions or be informal and non-binding. RCPs have increased the international community's appreciation of migration issues and challenges. Thus, RCPs are specifically referred to in the 2015 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (paragraphs 54 and 55) and the Modalities Resolution of the Global Compact for Migration (and paragraph 23 (b) as valid existing mechanisms to contribute to the preparatory process and negotiations towards the Global Compact for Migration and for facilitating migration in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
For media inquiries and interview requests, please contact IOM RO Media & Communication Unit at RONairobiMCU@iom.int or Yvonne Ndege, Regional Communications and Spokesperson, East and Horn of Africa on firstname.lastname@example.org / Phone: +254797735977.