The Pan-African Network on Migration to further the interests of migrants on the continent and beyond has been launched at the seventh Africities summit being held in the South African city of Johannesburg.
A session on the migrant situation was held on Tuesday during which delegates took the floor to share experiences and make recommendations on what the network should be focussing on before it was officially launched at the close of the seminar.
The network is set to form an African chapter of the World Social Forum on Migrations.
Similar to the World Social Forum on Migrations, the Pan- African Network on Migration has as its objective the promotion and protection of the rights of migrants, focussing primarily on African migrants who have migrated to other African countries and other continents.
It will bring together several migrant associations and local governments across Africa in a collaborative effort that will ensure their relations are strengthened.
The Pan-African Network on Migration will be the “voice”of African migrants, representing African migration on a global scale and working with international organisations such as the African Union, European Union and United Nations.
The importance of Africa uniting in order to solve the migration issue came to the fore during the discussions and it was generally accepted that united local government interventions, through the network is the means by which migration issues can be addressed.
Migration as a natural phenomenon was also highlighted as a human right issue given that people move to find jobs and make a better life for themselves.
Their journeys to other places are often life-changing if not life-threatening with little or no promise of a better quality of life.
According to the Southern African Forum on Migration represented at the summit, migration issues are worsened by the fact that many African cities do not have effective programmes in place to welcome, host and manage the flow of migrants within Africa.
The lack of an effective migrant network that helps host cities deal with an influx of migrants is a gap the Pan-African Network on Migration hopes to fill.
Marc Gbaffou, Chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) suggested that the best way to change the current situation concerning migration is through a positive networking system that changes the way such movements of people are viewed.
“Let us link our efforts, migration should be seen as a potential for this continent to develop itself” he suggested.
The negative perception that migrants steal jobs, perpetrate crime and are bad for a host country needs to change, Gbaffou pointed out.
“Let us stand united as we want this network to be launched so that we don’t see each other as enemies” he concluded.
Brice Monnou, the Vice-president of Forum des Organizations de Solidarite Internationale issues des Migrations (FORIM) applauded calls for the Pan-African Network on Migration to focus on creating a united Africa bringing to the fore the bigger picture to resolve their own problems instead of allowing young people to inherit the “cancer” of exploiting Africa particularly its resources.
“We keep saying Europe is not giving us a chance in the market, but are we giving each other a chance” asked Blessing, a young South African delegate.
Others referred to the recurrent cycle of Africans leaving their continent to study overseas and the little control over other migrants to other continents where the focus should be on improving their conditions at home so that they can will stay and develop their own countries.
According to a delegate from Burundi, the high rate of youth unemployment creates huge conflicts between those who had completed their studies inside the country and those unable to complete theirs overseas.
In order to develop continental integration, opening of African borders to
Africans was also suggested.
A delegate from Cameroon, who arrived in South Africa on Tuesday morning, shared his experience of trying to get to the summit, saying he had struggled to obtain a visa from the South African embassy in his country.
“They told me that if I am Cameroonian I need a visa to South Africa but if I was a French citizen no visa was required, I could get a visa on arrival at the airport”, he said.
“A European is exempted from getting a visa but I, an African should obtain a visa. I was shocked!” he added.
A recommendation that controlled regional integration should first be
achieved before continental integration came from a South African delegate who added: “Let’s learn to crawl before we can walk”.
His concern highlighted the importance of the careful planning needed to make open access to African countries a reality.
The recommendations from the session and the resolutions from the Africities summit regarding migration will be deliberated on as the Pan-African Network on Migration goes forward after the launch, to recognise that migration can be positive for the continent through collaboration and effective management.
*This article originally appeared on APA News