The launch of the ACP Observatory on Migration was announced at a formal ceremony held on 25 to 27 October in Brussels with more than 400 representatives from research institutes, private research institutes, civil society organisations and UN agencies from the countries of the ACP and EU in attendance. Present at the inauguration were H.E. Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Secretary-General of the ACP Group of States, Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development and H.E. William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration.
The Observatory was introduced under the auspices of the 7th EU-Africa Partnership on Migration, Mobility and Employment, which seeks in particular to improve control over migration. Under this partnership, the Observatory for Information and Control of Migration has been established in Mali and an Intra-ACP Migration Facility has been adopted which is intended to integrate migration issues into the national development policies of the ACP. The facility comprises three interrelated components: creating an observatory on migration, institutional capacity-building on migration in the six ACP regions, and preparing civil society in ACP countries to contribute to the dialogue on migration.
Observatory Director Laurent de Boeck explains, “The ACP countries realize the magnitude of migration within their area and the ACP Observatory on Migration has been established in response to this reality.
These countries have noted that in studies on South-North migration, very little attention is given to migration patterns amongst developing countries although these flows are in fact more sizeable.
Migration conditions in the ACP have a negative impact on migrants and on the countries as well. Nevertheless, the potential impact on development is significant. The role of the observatory is to compile the data necessary to limit the negative impact of South-South migration while using to advantage its potential contribution to development on the human, economic, social and cultural level.”
A more balanced approach to migration
Establishment of the observatory was called for in particular since data on South-South migration is scarce and unreliable. Yet contrary to common belief, migrant workers from ACP countries do not head north as a first priority, but tend to gravitate first toward regional economic centres.
According to the available data, 70% (17.5 million) of sub-Saharan migration takes place within the same region, 16% (2.8 million) is destined for Europe (EU, Norway, Switzerland), and 5% is toward North America (Canada, USA, Mexico). In the OECD countries as a whole, persons from ACP countries account for only 9% of foreign-born residents (Report 2011 on Human Mobility, Migration and Human Development in ACP Countries, ACP Secretariat).
“The migration issue has been a priority item on the European political agenda for the past five to six years and kindled a heated debate between the EU and its ACP partners, but until now has always been approached from the South-North perspective" acknowledges Koos Richelle, Director General of EuropeAid at the European Commission. “At the request of the ACP, we have come to understand the need for an approach that is more balanced and takes account of South-South migration.”
“Migration within the ACP countries has always existed and will continue long into the future. The work of the observatory will lead to a better understanding of the situation to the benefit of both ACP States and migrants,” states H.E. Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Secretary General of the ACP Group of States.
The observatory was an initiative of the ACP Secretariat which oversees it and it is run by the International Organization for Migration. Funding is provided by the European Union with Swiss support. The total budget is €9 404 776 of which the EU contributes €7 994 060.
“The observatory is included in the Intra-ACP Migration Facility, and the relationship between migration and development has been the subject of much discussion on a theoretical level. But the ACP Secretariat believes that the idea of an observatory, which has been raised in many forums on development, including the World Forum on Migration and Development, can contribute to capacity- building and understanding of the dynamics of South-South migration and that from it, the best lessons can be taken away.” (Laurent De Boeck)
Within the ACP as a whole, migration is common between neighbouring countries for a variety of reasons.
“One of the great challenges of the observatory is to grasp the reality of migration in the ACP regions in all its variety, while discovering ways of sharing common experiences. The factors motivating ACP migrations include the search for work, flight from conflict or natural disaster, traditional cross-border movements, and changes in climate, particularly in the Pacific and the Sahel.
While mindful of this diversity, the observatory is seeking twinning opportunities to encourage the sharing of experience between ACP countries. For example, lessons drawn from the management of internal flows and relocation of displaced populations following the volcanic eruptions in Papua New Guinea in November, 2004 are applicable to other ACP regions which could be hit by comparable natural disasters. Similarly, experiences could be shared on the management of migrant workers, in West Africa or the Caribbean for example.”
Recognising the signs of future immigration waves
“There is evidence of increasing numbers of female migrants and of more frequent climatic events. These realities may contribute to defining the migrations of tomorrow and must be a studied in greater depth.” (Laurent De Boeck)
The observatory will also contribute to fighting anti-immigrant discrimination.
"Some ACP countries such as Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago are regional hubs that attract migrants in large numbers. In the past, some countries with large immigrant populations have undergone periods of discrimination and occasional violence against foreigners. If the pilot countries and regions make this issue a priority, the observatory will have a role to play in conducting research on the underlying causes of discrimination and in developing strategies to reduce discrimination.” (Laurent De Boeck)
Twelve pilot countries
To compile data, provide tools to policy makers and develop awareness in the general public on migration issues, the observatory will seek to develop the research capacity of ACP countries. It will introduce an innovative approach, linking ACP regional and national agencies, research institutes and private researchers into a collaborative network. Initially, the observatory will head a consortium of 15 partners and run programmes in twelve pilot countries, specifically Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Senegal, Tanzania, Timor-Leste and Trinidad and Tobago.
“We have chosen the twelve countries most affected by migration within the six ACP regions,” states Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas. “The Observatory will eventually take all the ACP countries into consideration.”
The objective is to establish a platform of reference for exchanges on the subject of South-South migration.
The observatory works with a central management unit under the supervision of a director and with points of focus located in the pilot countries. It is now conducting a review of all existing documentation relating to migration patterns in these twelve countries. Consulting groups have been established to identify research priorities. On the basis of this information, the observatory will begin studies and research in collaboration with researchers, governments and civil society.
Included in the project will be a mechanism to exchange information, collect data and draft recommendations for use throughout the ACP regions.
The ACP Observatory on Migration is currently based in Brussels but will be moved to an ACP country in the coming years.