Nairobi hosts Horn of Africa conference on migrant labour challenges

The Cabinet Secretary, Labour and Social Protection Simon Chelugui said the agreements, which should be undertaken through a harmonized strategy will enable the region to have a stronger bargaining power for protection of migrant workers.

Nairobi, Monday January 21, 2020 – There is need for governments in the East and Horn of Africa Region to conclude bilateral labour agreements and negotiate with key labour destination countries on how to handle the welfare of migrants.

The Cabinet Secretary, Labour and Social Protection Simon Chelugui said the agreements, which should be undertaken through a harmonized strategy will enable the region to have a stronger bargaining power for protection of migrant workers.

The CS said the agreements should also enhance equality of treatment and protection of the rights of migrants in line with international conventions and standards, noting that lack of harmonized policies for coordination of labor migration have continued to hamper achievement of the benefits of migration in the region.

“We need to harmonize our policies to effectively harness the opportunities associated with labour migration while addressing the associated challenges,” he said.

“Mismanaged labour mobility can have negative consequences such as smuggling and trafficking in persons, unethical practices and intolerance and exclusion, which as a region we must address,” said Chelugui, and added that a well-managed labour mobility has the potential to yield significant benefits for both the origin  and destination countries in revenue and safety of migrants.

The CS was speaking during the Regional Ministerial forum on Harmonizing Labour Migration Policies in East and Horn of Africa held in Nairobi to dialogue on forging a common approach towards safe, orderly and human labour migration in East and Horn of Africa.

The two-day forum brought together Ministers in charge of Labour and Social Protection and Senior Government official from Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania and Regional Offices East African Community, the African Union and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

The two-day forum brought together Ministers in charge of Labour and Social Protection and Senior Government official from Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania and Regional Offices East African Community, the African Union and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

Chelugui said the implementation of various frameworks on free movement put in place by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and East African Community and the Global Compact for Migration among others will enhance regional integration on migrants.

He said the labour migration has immense socio-economic benefits such as job creation, providing livelihoods for migrant workers, addressing skills gaps in destination countries of origin, being avenues of technology and skills- transfer between countries.  He said those benefits are an advantage to both countries of origin and destination.

“A number of our governments have concluded bilateral labour agreements with various labour destinations countries but the ultimate goal must be to conclude bilateral agreements with all key countries,” stressed the CS.

It is important for the region to continuously identify potential labour destination countries and initiate negotiations, noting that lack of timely and comprehensive labour market information on labour migration hinders development and implementation of appropriates policies and strategies.

“This calls for the need to address the data gaps through development of labour market information systems for migrant workers and those in diaspora, as the system will help in collection, analysis and dissemination of data on labour migration,” said the CS.

He added that the system is also useful in policy formulation, job search and matching of local skills to foreign job opportunities.

Chelugui at the same time announced that human trafficking and smuggling have been identified as a leading form of transnational organized crime in the region.

“This region is perceived to be a source, transit and destination for migrant workers being trafficked and smuggled. Discussion between countries and regional cooperation are required to facilitate implementation and enforcement of legislations on anti-trafficking and smuggling in persons in member states,” he said.

Studies have shown that an estimated 80 per cent of migration in Africa happens within the continent. A report published by International Organization for Migration  in 2019 revealed that more than 57 per cent of the more than 390,000 movements observed in the East and Horn of Africa region in that year, were due to economic reasons.

In his address, the Member of Parliament for Bura Constituency and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Labour and Social Welfare Wario Ali said called on government to put in place an appropriate legal framework to address the issue of migrants and trafficking in persons so as to protect migrants who are seeking for jobs in destination countries.

He said the framework should also look into budgetary allocation and migration to enable those in charge be able to respond to distress calls from workers.

“We do not want a situation where migrants can turn into slaves. The number of migrants in Africa is rising.  If not properly managed, labour migration may lead to security challenges in countries of origin and destination,” said Wario.

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