Challenges And Concerns About Migration And Trafficking In Ghana By Mr. Samuel Zan Akologo (Executive Secretary – Caritas – Ghana)
Whenever we are dealing with people on the move, then they are either immigrants, refugees, internally displaced persons (IPDs) or trafficked persons. Conceptually, migration is essentially the movement of people from one place to another. The reason can either be economic, social, political or environmental. Therefore the difference or distinction is normally deduced from the reason for movement. Sometimes the geographical nature of the movement can also introduce minor distinctions as in Refugees – those who have moved out of their country of origin and Internally Displace Persons (IDPs) – those who have been displaced from their original area of settlement within their own country. Let me also note quickly that recent academic and political discourses at the global space are pushing for further distinctions with regards to levels of vulnerability, as in the movement of children – both accompanied and unaccompanied.
The nature and scope of human movements keep changing with emerging global trends. These dynamics calls for frequent examination of the subject matter, sharing of new knowledge and review of our response to the situation. We should also note that migration generally has both positive and negative implications for human development which cannot be ignored and should not be handled in an arbitrary manner.
In short, migration is a call for both a policy and programme response at all levels of governance; national, regional and global.
Highlights of the Situation of Migration in Ghana
Perhaps the situation of migration in Ghana manifests all the types of human movements that I have outlined above. The emerging dynamics of the field may soon also manifest earlier than we expect in Ghana. The following are key highlights in Ghana:
- Refugees: Over 20,000 refugees are currently in Ghana from Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d Ivoire, Mali and Niger. There are four settled refugee camps while some from Togo and Liberia have now been integrated into the local community due to cessation arrangements. The situation of children on the move applies to this category of migrants too.
- Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): There are no reliable statistics on this type of human movement in Ghana. The main cause for IDPs is seasonal eruptions of inter-ethnic conflicts and violence due to disputes over natural resources (land, territory, inland water bodies etc.) and chieftaincy succession. Notable in this category is the Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo conflict in the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocese. The situation of children on the move applies in this category of migrants.
- Rural – Urban and North – South Migration: The biggest push factor here is poverty and lack of alternative opportunities, especially for young people. This movement also include children who are used as head- potters, popularly referred to as ‘Kayayee’, in the cities. There are limited cases of urban-rural drifts mainly for illegal mining activities, also called ‘Galamsey’.
- Emigration: Many young people are risking their life through the desert, Mediterranean sea or through stowaway to leave Ghana for perceived well-being and better conditions in Europe. This has been well documented and well known to us. However, professionals like Medical doctors and Nurses are also leaving Ghana for Europe or other well-endowed economies in Africa like South Africa and Botswana. They become Immigrants, legal or illegal, in their destinations or transit points.
- Trafficking: While some of the children leave voluntarily from Northern Ghana to the South, others are actually trafficked there or even beyond Ghana. Even those who move voluntarily to the cities in the South of Ghana, they too later fall into the trap of being trafficked due to hardships they encounter at their planned intended destination. We have come across ‘Kayayee’ in Accra being trafficked to Nigeria and Benin. Some were actually rescued.
- Nomads and Herdsmen: Seasonal movements of herdsmen from Mali, Niger and Chad into Northern Ghana have created situations of over-grazing, destruction of farms and crops and occasional skirmishes between them and native inhabitants. Now the movement is going south-wards due to reduction of grass cover/fodder in Northern Ghana. The implications of this kind of movement are now regularly being reported in some areas in Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, Volta and Eastern Regions, all to the south of Ghana.
Caritas – Ghana Response
- Direct intervention for protection and provision of well-fare services. This is normally at the level of the Diocesan Caritas or other Church-related organizations. Notable examples are: Navrongo-Bolgatanga street children project, Catholic Action for street children in Accra and Kumasi, and the Christian Mothers’ Association projects in the cities.
- Direct intervention in habitat and social services provision for refugees in Ghana. The Migrants, Refugees and Relief Unit of Caritas – Ghana is the official Implementation Partner (IP) of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ghana for this purpose.
- Public Policy Advocacy: Research work and direct engagement with Government and relevant state agencies, are the responsibility of the national office. Research work is currently limited due to lack of capacity (staff and resources). Policy education is key component of our advocacy work.
- Networking and Partnerships: At the national level, we deliberately use networking and strategic partnership approach to mitigate limitations of individual organizations. It is also a way of building synergies for multi-dimensional attack on the problems of migration and human trafficking. For instance, the African Development Organization for Migration (AFDOM) which is based in Northern Ghana focuses on reducing illegal cross-border migration yet helps to resettle or re-integrate rescued children from transit points in southern Ghana. The Marshallan Relief and Development Services (MAREDES) have research potential and influence in high-level policy spaces in Ghana. Regional and International networking is limited to the Regional and International structures of CARITAS. So for instance, we are a member of the CI Working Group on Migration and Trafficking.
Some Challenges and Concerns
- Migration has a very strong international relations dimension. The fact that the Africa Union has a Common Position on Migration and Development and the Strategic Migration Policy Framework is a very positive move. However, how much of this is known? How is it being implemented? Is there accountability or monitoring systems for these frameworks? Can Caritas – Africa and SECAM prioritize this in their strategic engagement with the Africa Union?
- Locally, Ghana has no clear cut policy on migration and development. A national policy would have been critical for domesticating the Africa Union Frameworks. Government only interest itself in Immigration service and Remittances of Ghanaian emigrants. Occasionally it reacts to embarrassing news arising from migration.
- Limited research on this field to expose empirical evidence of the scope, nature and implications is a serious concern. I have indicated earlier in my introduction that the dynamics of the field of migration calls for constant examination and sharing of new knowledge. Our inability to do this is a serious setback.
- The recent outbreak of the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) has raised new challenges to migration and development. Suddenly the refugee camps in Ghana hosting displaced Liberians and Sierra Leoneans is posing new health challenges for the Government of Ghana than one has hitherto imagined. At the personal level, my wife and I had to revise our travel plans to visit our friends in the Netherlands because of the psychological and social pressure that the visit might impose on our friends and their families.
- Powerful economic interests affect our work on migration. For instance, powerful individuals in the cities (both men and women) are benefiting from trafficking and the menial services provided by youth who have migrated from poorer regions; especially as house-helps. Also, our over-crowded local market centres in the cities can hardly function without the migrant head potters who move goods from one point to the other.
- Diminishing livelihood opportunities and lack of social amenities in our rural areas will continue to push the youth out of those places to the cities. Yet their situation is likely to even get worse in the cities because of the absence of social safety nets. The support services provided by our Caritas organizations at the destinations may only be a mitigating factor but not the solution. How can we therefore re-strategize to tackle the problem from the root?
There are no ready answers to the challenges and concerns. However, this meeting is a good start and space to gather ideas, document and share them and learn from best practices. It will then be easier to devise a strategic response. Local actions are important but there is a strong need for international relations for more far-reaching policy response. My recommendation is for Caritas Internationalis to be constantly and strategically present at the global policy spaces where dialogue on migration and development and Trafficking is taking place. Good strategy may require that CI facilitate access to those spaces by local Caritas organizations whose messages might be more personal and compelling.