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Opinions of Sunday, 11 March 2018

Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe

ECOWAS migration policy should be reviewed and revised

In view of the high spate of criminal activities of economically destabilizing and deadly nature, such as armed robbery and contract murders and assassinations in the country, the former of which have been forensically attested to involve a significant percentage of foreign nationals of West African origins, for the most past, one cannot but unreservedly concur with Mr. Michael Amoako-Atta, Superintendent and Head of Public Affairs of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), that the proscribed traditional process of visa requirement for citizens of the West African sub-region, especially citizens of the ECOWAS countries, wishing to travel from one country to another within the region, needs to be reintroduced to facilitate the efficient tracking of those whose presence in our country may pose a security threat. Some of these migrants may actually be fugitives from justice whose deadly antisocial activities need to be effectively contained (See “Illegal Immigrants: Immigration Service Blames Flexible ECOWAS Policy” Citifmonline.com / Modernghana.com 3/8/18).

For instance, an immigration and/or migration quota system could be established based on the general national criminal rate/profile of the respective member nations of the Economic Community of West African States, to prevent relatively low-crime countries from being swamped by hardened and dangerous criminals from countries with exceptionally or unacceptably high crime rates. To be certain, part of the requirements for admittance into the ECOWAS federation ought to have stipulated a minimum level of criminality acceptable/tolerable per population size, failure to meet which requirement could then be used to either preclude or suspend the citizens of the defaulting country from fully enjoying the ECOWAS policy of free movement of individuals from member countries. It simply ought not to be that this otherwise progressive and systematically established process of geopolitical unification and economic empowerment and industrial development becomes an albatross of economic and political destabilization around the necks of citizens from countries that could significantly prosper without having to be rudely and traumatically confronted by the culture shock and moral or ethical incongruities and disparities that come with such an otherwise theoretically progressive system of nation building.

The reintroduction of visas would also ensure that citizens of one ECOWAS nation wishing to cross into another nation could be profiled and monitored for security purposes. Among such basic requirements could be academic and professional qualifications, employment status at the time of visa application and a range of acceptable reasons for moving from one ECOWAS polity to another. For instance, short of pursuing career goals such as schooling or preestablished job opportunities with livable wages/salaries in high skilled professions for which qualified personnel are generally rare, the movement of people from one country to another must be healthily and safely controlled. To be frank with GIS’s Superintendent Amoako-Atta, the sheer numbers of periodically deported illegal residents may not be as significant as the fact of whether these deportees were prime catch, or of the most dangerous kind to their host countries, if, indeed, crime reduction is the primary objective here. Visa requirements could also be made flexible without necessarily comprising the security and quality-of-life status of the citizens and residents of host countries.

Above all, is the imperative need to recognize the inescapable fact that while, indeed, some ideas may sound and seem to be very progressive and even fetching, nevertheless, an idea whose time may not have yet arrived had better be left alone. For hastily implemented, such an idea may bring devastating consequences in its wake. The free-movement tenet among the ECOWAS principles may very well be one such premature idea.

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