BORDER MANAGEMENT THEMATIC WORKING GROUP
The Free Movement and Migration (FMM) West Africa project seeks to support the ECOWAS Commission in addressing regional migration management challenges by strengthening its capacities in the area of immigration and border management.
The project supports the ECOWAS Commission in enhancing the security and compatibility of travel documents; in developing guidance documents for improving inter-agency cooperation on joint-border crossing posts and/or border patrols in the region; in developing training tools for member state immigration officials and in strengthening monitoring and public information at border posts.
FMM West Africa is funded by the European Union and the ECOWAS Commission. It is implemented jointly by the International Organization for Migration, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, and the International Labour Organization.
HARMONIZATION OF TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
SUPPORT TO BORDER MANAGEMENT
West Africa borders and ports are busy places with tens of thousands of goods, cargo containers and hundreds of millions of regular and irregular travelers moving through our borders in the sub-region as well as entering the third country each year with hundreds of thousands of unauthorized migrants seized, arrested, detained or turned away. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of unauthorized migrants are illegally recruited and have their rights abused; thousands of kilograms of illegal drugs and other contraband are smuggled into the sub-region; tens of thousands of migrants may be victims of human trafficking.
The breadth and variety of these statistics are reflected in the West African complex border security situation which calls on our border security operatives and agencies to prevent the illegal flow of people and goods across the sub-regional borders while expediting the safe flow of lawful travel and commerce; ensure security and resilience of global movement systems; and disrupt and dismantle transnational organizations that engage in smuggling and trafficking across the region.
To execute this mission successfully, ECOWAS Member States must balance a number of competing priorities and allocate resources accordingly. For example:
The answers to these questions depend on the variety of threats that West African countries are confronted with at its international borders. One believes it is time that even in the absence of fiscal scarcity Member States faces, there should be increasing pressure on our governments to invest prudently in border management so as to ensure that effective enforcement strategy shapes agency budgets rather than the other way around.
In this light, the FMM West Africa (Free Movement of Persons and Migration) supports free movement and migration in the region. It aims at strengthening the capacities of the ECOWAS Commission and national governments in the area of border management and have been instrumental in the establishment of this thematic working group [TWG].
The free movement of people and goods is one of the major international benefits of globalization, but this freedom can be exploited. Free international boundaries can give international criminals greater opportunity to profit from crime and smuggling. Terrorists can also be affected by these instability in the region. All countries have similar national interests in sound border management, that is, to lessen the impact of international terrorism and crime on internal peace, stability, and security. Each country is partly reliant on the efforts of others to stop the illegal exit of people and goods. These obligations are mutual. Each country also has national and regional interests in preventing illegal transit to other countries.
African countries, and for that matter West Africa, are increasingly facing daunting tasks of managing their borders in ways that secures their territorial sovereignty/integrity, ensures that they are bridges rather than barriers for cross-border cooperation and regional integration, prevents illegal entries and exiting of people and goods while allowing easy movement of goods and people, allowing relatives to visit their kin while keeping away criminals (such as drug and human traffickers, terrorists, etc), as well as facilitating tourists to easily cross while keeping out terrorists.
The challenges facing the Member States to manage their borders are compounded by globalization that is tearing down traditional borders through advancement in technology and transformation of international relations. At the moment crimes are committed without crossing borders and huge amounts of goods are sold through cyberspace. The internet has not only made it more difficult to manage borders and to combat cross-border crimes, but has also effectively dismantled borders by allowing imports without going through customs.
Increases in volumes of cross-border trading and movements of people from their countries of origin in search of greener pastures elsewhere have put enormous pressure on border control systems.
These realities give urgency to West African countries to put in place effective border management systems that minimize border tensions, increases joint enforcement and surveillance efforts to decrease organized crime activities by syndicates and traffickers in borderlands. This would generate a common understanding of border insecurities and approaches to addressing them to secure the flow of goods and people in the spirit of regional and continental integration. This integrates and develops marginalized border areas through provision of essential infrastructure and promotion of a sense of security and well-being among the border population, enhances communication and information exchange between neighboring countries, maintains borders in ways that do not obstruct crossborder trading and legal movements of people, harmonizes, and enables borders to be sources of mutual trust and harmony between neighbors.
Border management, which is a collaborative process between a country and its neighbors cannot be done unilaterally and it is most effective and efficient when done regionally. It has a number of stakeholders who are key government agencies (customs, immigration, police, armed forces, ministry of agriculture—quarantine purposes) who in most cases operate independently and without networking or exchanging information. Other stakeholders are the Airlines, Shipping companies, Border local authorities, International business companies, and individuals (residents of the borders or travelers across boundaries e.g. traders, relatives, tourists, or terrorists). The perceptions that a government/state has of external threats/risks determine its responses to border insecurity and the border management system it puts in place. In other words, how a country/state/government manages its borders reflects its fears and comfort.
Indeed, border management is an expression of a state’s sovereignty. A state’s failure to manage its borders can undermine its domestic and international legitimacies. The legal status of a state/government depends on how it manages its borders. The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States of 1933 identifies four (4) criteria for state sovereignty: permanent population; a defined territory; a government; and the capacity to enter relations with other states. In other words, Territoriality is equal to sovereignty; Citizenship is defined by territory; Territory is defined by borders; Borders enable countries to engage in international relations; Borders define the state-citizenship relationship; Borders are us!
This high level of porosity has made African borders easily penetrable by smugglers of people, drugs, weapons, and contrabands. Furthermore, revenues generated on borders have been used to fund criminal activities and fuelled severe social problems such as prostitution and prevalence of HIV/AIDS and STDs at border crossing points. Organized crime syndicates have also smuggled cars, cigarettes, and livestock across borders, as have poachers of wild animals.
Borders are also rebel groups ‘best friends’. Rebel groups, such as the Lords’ Resistance Army (LRA), have skillfully used porous and unmanaged borders of Uganda, Sudan, the DRC, and the CAR to evade military actions for the past 20 years. Liberia 14years of the civil war was also as a result of weak and porous borders that led to the country being submerged into that war situation. Insecure borders have greatly contributed to severe security threats such as insurrection, incursion, and terrorist activity.
Border security is a factor of border management. International borders are a security issue for all governments. States are recognized under international law by their capability to maintain their boundaries, secure their territories, and protect their citizens. The ability to secure national borders is one of the criteria used to classify states as strong, weak and failed.
A state has a primary responsibility of protecting its citizens from both internal and external threats to their livelihoods. It must be pointed out that the strategic location of a country determines opportunities for illegal activities that exists or can take place in its border areas.
Action Areas of the TWG:
EFFECTIVENESS OF FREE MOVEMENT
BORDER AND MIGRATION MANAGEMENT
DATA MANAGEMENT AND SHARING
MONITORING AND REPORTING