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Regional News of Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Source: Graphic Online

Make immigration policies family friendly

The Assistant Director of Immigration at the Ghana Immigration service (GIS), Dr Prosper P. D. Asima, has said immigration policies must make it easier for migrants to integrate with family and benefit from family reunion.

He noted that the gap created by the absence of migrants hindered the development of their children left in their country of origin and their ability to reach their full potential, hence immigration policies must be family friendly, more inclusive and rights based.

Dr Asima, who is also the Immigration Officer in charge of the Kotoka International Airport, was contributing to a policy round-table in Amsterdam to discuss the policy implications of emerging findings from research projects on transnational families.

The policy roundtable preceded a two-day closing conference of the Ghanaian component of the (TCRA-Ghana) project.

The projects, co-ordinated by the Maastricht University in The Netherlands, established that the absence of negative impacts of migration on children left behind depended on good basic living conditions, a stable care arrangement where children did not change caregivers more than once and an active relationship with the parents who were overseas through regular communication and face-to-face contact.

Policies and strategies

Dr Asima said the findings of the research called for policies and strategies to address the special needs and concerns of women migrants and their children. Also important, he added, was the need “to mainstream into migration management the phenomenon of potential vulnerable groups and also intensify research and data gathering on the nexus between migration and such groups”.

He disclosed that Ghana’s draft National Migration Policy did not directly address the issue of Transnational Child Raising Arrangements (TCRA).

“However, it looks at the interrelations of migration and gender, vulnerable groups, dual citizenship, which have elements of TCRA,” he said.

Develop integration policies

He was of the view that the Ghana Immigration Service needed to partner other institutions to develop integration policies, particularly for children who had been brought from abroad and needed to settle down.

“This is important because such children come from a different cultural milieu and therefore understand things differently. They will need to understand how things are done in Ghana. It is just not a matter of giving them residence permits, but how best they can become part of the larger society, so that they do not feel marginalised,” said Dr Asima.

He stressed the need for the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to be involved in providing opportunities for the advancement of children of migrants.

The ministry, he expanded, could play a significant role in the formalisation of the care-giving arrangements between migrant parents and caregivers, so that every party could acknowledge his/her obligations.

Caregivers could also be given some support or remuneration through a welfare scheme and possibly gratuity for end of service when the child was ready to be reunited with the parents abroad, Dr Asima suggested.

Acquiring passports

He said although the TCRA-Ghana project focused on Ghanaian migrants, the findings had implications for immigrants in Ghana whose children were elsewhere or immigrant children in school in Ghana whose parents lived outside Ghana.

“That is why where TCRA children may have to visit their parents also have a bearing on what we do, especially with respect to their documentation such as facilitating their acquisition of Ghanaian passports. Where they possess foreign passports, we need to ensure that their stay is regularised through the processing of residence permits, so that if they need to visit their parents, procuring visas or travelling may not be hindered,” he said.

The incidence of 'contact with migrant parents' could also be facilitated if the Ghana Immigration Service reduces the bottlenecks that migrant parents face in the acquisition of passports for travel.

He suggested the establishment of more agencies in the other regions for the processing of passports to facilitate its acquisition such that it would not become a hindrance to persons who want to visit.

Diaspora Support Bureau

Dr Asima pointed out that the Diaspora Support Bureau set up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration would need to evaluate the findings and start to help with transnational families in distress.

Ultimately, he emphasised, sending states should provide the conducive environment and promote development to lead to opportunities for social and economic mobility, so that their nationals do not see migration as the only means to an improved standard of living but only as a choice among many others.

In the same way, receiving countries should appreciate that migrants are contributing substantially to their economy, whether documented or not, and they also have rights which should be respected, Dr Asima concluded.

Policy documents

The Director, Social Development Policy Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Prof. Takyiwah Manuh, reiterated the need for further deliberations on the findings of the research.

She said there were many possibilities for collaboration and linkages with the institutions that performed the immigration functions on behalf of governments. Prof. Manuh, who participated in the research whilst working with the University of Ghana, noted that the research findings had brought out many policy issues regarding migration which should be explored.

Further deliberations on what policy documents to formulate that will reach policymakers and get them to take the needed actions is urgently required,” she said.

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