High-level panel meeting in Ethiopia says internal migration is four times bigger than flow of people to Europe.
ADDIS ABABA (AA) – A high-level panel on migration in the Ethiopian capital on Saturday has said that the bulk of African population movements have been internal.
Officials from the African Union (AU) and the Economic Commission for Africa met as part of a dozen sideline events of African Development Week which is being held in Addis Ababa.
Professor Mariama Awumbila of the Center for Migration Studies at the University of Ghana said internal migration in Africa, which stands in excess of 20 million people, was four times bigger than the number of migrants bound for Europe and the Middle East.
“Some 70 to 80 percent of migration in Africa is between African countries themselves,” she said, adding that countries such as Ghana were attracting skilled migrants.
It is a media portrayal that made migration to Europe more critical than refugees sheltered in African countries and internally displaced persons (IDPs), Takyiwaa Manuh, ECA Director of Social Development Division said.
AU Commissioner for Social Affairs Mustafa Sidiki Kaloko said even outbound migration to Europe and other parts of the world would ultimately brought the continent more benefits. “We can turn the brain drain into a ‘brain gain’,” Kaloko said adding that billions of dollars flowing into the continent as remittances was one of these benefits.
UNHCR Representative to the AU and ECA Cosmas Chanda told Anadolu Agency that it was important to distinguish between the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’. “Obviously refugees are ones running away from persecution; this is a population that cannot be sent back. Migrants have the option of returning to their respective countries,” he said.
“Africa continues to have a majority refugees and majority of IDPs; but they are not portrayed internationally in the same manner as the migration into Europe,” he said, adding that Africa leads in terms of protecting the rights of refugees.
“What Africa needs and continues to deserve is a continued financial support so that they are able to assist refugees in their camps,” he said.
According to him, more than 6.4 million refugees were living in protracted situations, which the UNHCR defines as cases in which 25,000 or more refugees of the same nationality have been in exile for five years or more in a given asylum country.
“Somalia is perhaps the largest and longest refugee and internal displacement crisis on the African continent,” he said.
Chanda said the international community in general and Africa in particular should work towards addressing the root causes of displacement. “It is important to ensure that humanitarian assistance is intrinsically linked to development assistance.
“It is also important to increase the legal migration avenues available to people in order to facilitate movement in a manner that respects and protects the human rights and dignity of people of the move,” he said indicating the need to making migration “predictable”.