IOM, Ghana, Launch EU-Funded Migration Consultation Centre

By International Office of Migration (IOM)

GENEVA, Switzerland, June 5, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM and Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) have begun construction of a Migration Consultation Centre (MCC) in Sunyani. The construction is part of a larger information campaign to promote safe and legal migration under IOM's Ghana Integrated Migration Management Approach (GIMMA) project, funded by the European Union (EU).

The MCC aims to facilitate and empower migrants to travel in a legal, voluntary, orderly and protected way. The Centre is currently located at GIS Brong Ahafo Regional Command, which has limited space and can only provide limited information for visitors.

The new building will offer a neutral space for potential and actual migrants to obtain accurate and reliable information on legal migration procedures and required documentation, the risks of irregular migration, and the rights and responsibilities of migrants throughout the migration process.

According to IOM research, in 2014 at least 5,017 migrants lost their lives while attempting to cross borders around the world and over 65 per cent of them originated from Sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 5,017, over 3,270 are believed to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean. Between January and May 2015, at least 2,369 migrants died, including 1,829 in the Mediterranean.

Ghana is no stranger to these tragedies. Although no official statistics exist to show the numbers involved in irregular migration, an increasing number of Ghanaians, especially young people, are risking their lives looking for better opportunities abroad.

Between January and April 2015, some 471 Ghanaians, including 32 unaccompanied minors, arrived in Italy by boat, according to the Italian Ministry of the Interior.

In 2011, over 19,000 Ghanaian migrants in Libya, most of them irregular, were assisted to return to Ghana during the Libyan crisis by the government of Ghana in partnership with IOM.

The crisis highlighted the irregular flows of Ghanaians risking their lives to cross the Sahara desert to seek greener pastures. More than half of these returnees went back to the Brong Ahafo Region, which, according to various sources, has the highest rate of irregular migration.

“The large number of people from the Brong Ahafo Region who risk their lives in dangerous and exploitative journeys on the Sahara desert and on the high seas, and the concomitant effects on their families in particular and society in general, served as a catalyst that accelerated the construction of the MCC to tackle this canker from its roots,” says GIS Director Dr. Peter Wiredu.

Irregular migration cannot be tackled by a single intervention. The lack of employment opportunities, poverty and sense of despair are major drivers of migration. In addition to raising awareness of the public on risks and dangers of irregular migration, addressing root causes of migration is imperative.

“Initiatives aimed at improving economic opportunities, social services and community infrastructures are needed in areas prone to economically induced migration, so that migration becomes a choice, not an escape from a harsh reality. Members of these communities, especially the youth, need to be able to picture a future at home. Migration out of despair is rarely conducive to positive outcomes,” says IOM Ghana Chief of Mission Sylvia Lopez-Ekra.

In addition to the incidents in the Mediterranean, the growing number of unlicensed employment agencies is increasingly facilitating the trafficking of Ghanaian men and especially women to the Middle East by promising lucrative job opportunities.

According to GIS, over 2,000 Ghanaian female migrants departed to the Middle East between September 2014 and January 2015, and about 350 of them have been returned to Ghana. Several complained about how they were forced to work, being overworked, physically and sexually abused, and subject to inhumane treatment.

The Centre will also look at this worrying trend and provide information and counselling services to protect vulnerable migrants from fraudulent jobs offered by human smugglers and traffickers.

'We are intensifying our cooperation to tackle the root causes that force people to escape and migrate. We all need to work together to create the conditions so that young people have opportunities and a future in Ghana,” says EU Ambassador to Ghana William Hanna.

With its overall objective to contribute to the Ghanaian government's effort to manage migration more effectively, the GIMMA project is helping to build GIS' operational capacity to protect the country's borders; empower migrants to make informed decisions; and improve the country's migration data management capacity. The three-year EUR 3 million project is funded by the EU under the framework of 10th European Development Fund.