Border Management


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.

INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY-BUILDING

  • Develop a comprehensive training tool on border management and free movement together with the ECOWAS Commission Free Movement Department
  • Organize regional Training of Trainers (TOT) events on the ECOWAS border management and free movement training tool to ensure its dissemination in the region
  • Support the annual ECOWAS “Heads of Immigration Meeting” in its capacity as the leading institution for intra-regional dialogue on immigration and border

HARMONIZATION OF TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

  • Support the security, compatibility, and harmonization of travel documents in the region, i.e. the ECOWAS biometric ID card development initiative, and the ECOWAS “single Schengen style visa” initiative

SUPPORT TO BORDER MANAGEMENT

  • Enhance the management of joint border crossing posts and joint border patrols in the region
  • Develop an ECOWAS border monitoring strategy and test it at selected border posts
  • Strengthen awareness-raising, sensitization and public information on free movement in West Africa, especially in and around cross-border communities

BRIEF
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:

  • What is the extent of national budget allocation to border management, security, and other migration-related issues?
  • How should enforcement programs weigh the facilitation of legal trade and travel against the competing goal of preventing illegal entries?
  • How should the allocation of border security resources be divided among programs designed to counter differing threats?
  • Is it more efficient to invest enforcement financial resources at ports of entry especially land borders or on fencing and surveillance between the ports?
  • Should additional personnel be added to our land or coastal borders?
  • How do intelligence operations and cooperation with enforcement agencies away from or within the border enhance border security?
  • What is the nature of a country’s boundaries, its length, the economic and anthropological characteristics, and how they are defined and marked?
  • What is the extent of cooperation among governmental institutions, governments, and border communities at the borders?

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

  • Incorporate and harmonize ECOWAS texts on freedom of movement in national legislations;
  • Provide technical support to the Member States to deploy ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card and removal of resident permit requirements for ECOWAS citizens in territories of Member States to encourage labor mobility as well as scrupulously respect the technical specifications and other recommendations already identified by ECOWAS;
  • Integrate the ECOWAS Free Movement manual in the national training curriculum for border officers;
  • Increase capacity building actions at the regional and national level for border officers on the Free Movement Protocol and Supplementary Acts;
  • Complete the implementation of the Free Movement Protocol through effective abolishment of the entry stamp for short term permits, suppression of residence cards, and issue biometric ID card for all ECOWAS citizens free of charge. Reinforcement of the civil registry system should be a precondition for the issuance of travel documents;
  • Consular cards should be made to replace resident cards;
  • Provide dedicated counters for ECOWAS citizens alongside nationals of Member States;
  • Promote the equivalence of diploma in any institutions of learning in any MS for ECOWAS students to enjoy equal treatment;
  • Apply the principle of non-discrimination to all migrants workers at workplaces in the region and for all citizens setting up a private business in any of the Member States;
  • Reinforce the management of cross border communities through community policing and increased awareness on the Free Movement Protocol;
  • Inform Member States in writing of the availability of necessary technical assistance of ECOWAS Biometric Identity Card;
  • Establish national strategies and timeframe for the implementation of ECO visa for third countries nationals (Schengen type visa) to boost tourism in the region: [NOTE: Similar practice by Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda – East Africa Tourist Visa];
  • Provide equipment in border posts to read biometric documents (border management information systems);
  • Seek an ECOWAS fund to support border management in the ECOWAS region (in particular by setting up structures to take care of people on the move at our borders, particularly the most vulnerable people on the move);
  • Harmonize structures and operations at the different borders of the ECOWAS region [Traditional and Joint Border Posts];
  • Strengthen the implementation of the WAPIS information exchange system and foster cooperation between WAPIS and entities such as INTERPOL and AFRIPOL; and
  • Raise awareness among the community’s citizens of the dangers of irregular migration.

BORDER AND MIGRATION MANAGEMENT

  • Train border agents on border management and document fraud examination and detection and operationalize the ECOWAS manual on border management;
  • Establish a West African Migration Training Academy on migration management for border officials by accelerating the construction of the migration and border management training academy in TUGA (Nigeria);
  • Reinforce combat against transnational crime through joint investigations, mixed patrols, upgrade and standardization of border posts (including deployment of Border Authorities);
  • Operationalize the decision of Heads of Immigration [HoI] to facilitate the identification and voluntary humanitarian return of ECOWAS migrants from Libya;
  • Increase the number of female border operatives to handle migrants/vulnerable persons;
  • Fight against all forms of extortion and corruptive tendencies amongst border operatives;
  • Establish a committee of experts to define and implement a strategy on the ECO visa and determine a timeframe;
  • All major airports should be connected to the Interpol i/24/7 database;
  • Harmonization of border control procedures by training of operatives on ECOWAS free movement and border management manuals;
  • Increased Joint border patrols, investigation and information sharing across ECOWAS borders to enhance security architecture in the region; and
  • Ensure timely exchange of information amongst operatives across borders to prevent and combat crime.

DATA MANAGEMENT AND SHARING

  • Improve data collection through the inclusion of information on the purpose of travel, biometric data;
  • Vehicles and vessels used in movements, routing, and destination, transhumance movements;
  • Start harmonization of data collection, management and sharing from most equipped and prepared points of entry: the airports;
  • Introduce grading level criteria for data sharing with a clear distinction between sensitive and less sensitive information for sharing in order to guarantee data protection;
  • Improve data storage through Migration Information and Data Analysis Systems (MIDAS) and provide adequate training for end-users;
  • Ensure that border police directorates have access to reliable data;
  • Establish a platform for the exchange of specimens of travel documents amongst MS to aid clearance and check fraudulent use of travel documents;
  • Establish a migration data management unit within ECOWAS; and
  • Dedicate a percentage of the national annual budgets to fund border and migration management projects.

REGIONAL COORDINATION

  • Promote the establishment of a national committee on migration in countries where there are none and revive/regularize meetings in countries where they exist;
  • Establish a regional network of migration experts composed of institutions from each Member State and not focal points;
  • Improve two ways communication from the national committees to the regional level and vice versa through the establishment of a communication platform managed by ECOWAS;
  • Reinforce bilateral coordination and information exchange at the border through the establishment of operational coordination committees at points of entry;
  • Diplomatic representations should be requested to regularly share information on ECOWAS citizens with concerned governments;
  • Include migration in the national political agenda, particularly through specific strategies and policies and work toward a regional common migration policy; and
  • National legislation should back requirements for automatic advance passenger manifest.

MONITORING AND REPORTING

  • Define an M&E plan of action with indicators to be followed by appointed focal points, with defined deadlines;
  • Review and Adoption of the guidelines for assessing the implementation of the Free Movement Protocol;
  • Creation of a specific M&E system for monitoring the implementation of the Free Movement;
  • Protocol in line with the existing guidelines. Monitoring should be conducted by an independent body and both ECOWAS and MS should be assessed; and
  • Conduct a rapid assessment of the implementation of free movement protocol in view of creating a baseline.



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Return and Re-integration

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MEMBER STATES

Benin

Benin

The Gambia

Benin

Liberia

Benin

Senegal

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone

Mali

Mali

Niger

Niger

Ghana

Ghana

Cote D’Ivoire

Cote D’Ivoire

Togo

Togo

Cabo Verde

Cabo Verde


Guinea

Guinea


Nigeria

Nigeria



NON-MEMBER STATE

Mauritania

Mauritania





QUICK LINKS


ECOWAS
Rabat Process
IOM
AU
World Border Security Congress
KHARTOUM PROCESS
SWISS