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15.12.2005 General News

Govt making migration a major element in dev't

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Accra, Dec. 15, GNA - The Interior Minister Papa Owusu-Ankomah on Thursday said there was the need for collaboration with critical partners if Ghana were to minimize the negative effects of migration and enhance its positive impacts for development. He said since September last year, the Government had embarked on initiatives that would ensure that migration became a major element in the countries development Agenda. Issues of concern in the Government's agenda included the effective use of remittances as tools for poverty reduction, mitigation of the impact of the exodus of highly skilled migrants and tapping the vibrant communities of the Diaspora as partners for development.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah was speaking in Accra, at the launching of a 355- page book entitled "At Home in the World? International Migration and Development in Contemporary Ghana and West Africa." The book published with sponsorship from the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and the University of Ghana is on the outcome of papers presented at the International Conference on Migration and Development held in Accra in September 2004.

The book, edited by Prof. Takyiwaa Manuh, Director of the Institute of African Affairs at the University of Ghana-Legon, covers five thematic areas that form the basis for its 16 chapters produced by various experts and researchers on migration and development. It provides an in-depth analysis and a better understanding of the subject of the interrelationship between migration and development.

The Interior Minister said in addressing the issue of migration, plans were far advanced for the Ministry to set up a Migration Unit that would focus on how to make migration a major development tool. The Unit would coordinate with relevant institutions in the country to ensure that there was a national capacity to manage migration. It would also provide support for an inter-agency Migration Commission, which would advise the Government on the issue.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah noted that with the realization that migration was not just a Ghanaian phenomenon, the country this year became a member of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), with the hope of benefiting from the experiences of members in the efforts aimed at putting migration high on the agenda of national development strategies. He said that at the IOM's recent meeting, it proposed the use of Ghana in an economic model to analyse and evaluate the impact of the migration process on developing countries to demonstrate the potential of integrating migration into the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Millennium Development Goals. The Minister said one major concern of the Government was the large number of Ghanaian illegal immigrants in a number of countries. He said the concern was not only related to their treatment in those countries, but in how some Ghanaians got to those countries, where they faced dangers some of which led to their death before reaching their "promised lands".

Government, he said, was trying to address the problem by engaging in bilateral talks with a number of countries, hoping to evolve arrangements that could help in providing some recognition to the illegal immigrants to ensure that in the event of their repatriation, they would be treated humanely and with the dignity they deserved. He, however, stated that the Government had not yet signed any agreement with any country to that effect, though discussions were ongoing to ensure the interest of Ghanaians residing abroad were adequately catered for. Paapa Owusu-Ankomah commended those who contributed to the publication of the book, saying that the Ministry would make it a critical reading material for those who would be engaged in developing and implementing Ghana's migration programme.

Prof Takyiwaa Manuh said the brain drain afflicting most African countries was the evidence that there was low morale and poor pay rather than technical competence. "Thus rather than an exclusive focus on capacity building, the focus should first and foremost be on the valorisation of existing capacities through better capacity utilization to reverse the brain drain and repairing the main institutions of training that have been starved of funds." She stated that desperate young men and women trekking across the desert and engaging in other risky schemes to reach unknown destinations did not serve the good of Ghana's development.

"Migration needs to be managed in an open manner through dialogue and agreements with bilateral and multilateral partners and organizations to ensure that there are benefits to individuals, families, communities and countries." She said the Government must be challenged to initiate national dialogue on the role of migration in Ghana's development. Prof Manuh said the remittance that migrants sent home were now acknowledged as major transfer in the country's balance of payment, noting that international immigrants affected a large proportion of households in Ghana and had repercussion on poverty alleviation and eradication. "Unfortunately there has not been the necessary policy attention to the many dimensions of migration-development nexus", she said. She announced that the university had planned to establish a Migration Studies and Research Centre to advise on the formation of a national policy on migration through the provision of relevant data and to collaborate with other agencies working on migration related issues.

Mr Arie Van Der Wiel, Royal Netherlands Ambassador, noted that although Ghana was closer to achieving the middle-income status than what official statistic indicated, the brain drain in both the education and health sectors could hinder this achievement. He said although a visible element of the outcome of last year's conference on migration was the fact that migration had become a major topic on the agenda of both the Government of Ghana and her development partners, there was still more work to be done. He commended the initiative to set up a centre for migration issues, adding that the centre should have the priority to establish a migration profile for the country that could provide the framework for bringing existing information from different sources together in a structured manner and pledged his country support for the migration studies programme in Ghana.

Mr Daouda Toure, UN Resident Coordinator and UN Representative in Ghana, said the country could make migration work for its development by harnessing the potential of non-resident nationals. He said statistics from the Bank of Ghana's official inflow of remittances indicated an increase from 201.9 million dollars in 1990 to about one billion dollars in 2004, saying: "This is an opportunity to avoid the over-dependence on donor countries." Mr Toure said to attract non-residents to contribute to Ghana's development initiatives, such as the transfer of knowledge through expatriate nationals could be adopted to attract them to work for long, medium and short term periods in the country. He pledged that the UNDP would provide human and financial resources to ensure that there was a coherent and coordinated framework that would be beneficial to Ghana

Mr J. H. Mensah, the Senior Minister, who launched the book said countries must learn to co-exist with other migrants to guarantee hospitality from sister nations. He said the practice where some foreigners lived in segregated areas, especially those from the West Africa Sub-Region, was sometimes dehumanising and did not speak well of the international community. Mr Mensah expressed the hope that the publication would be considered by government in its quest to initiate policies on immigration. "I hope the book would also be studied to influence the conduct of all migrants", he said.