ECOWAS Parliament decries irregular youth migration from subregion


ECOWAS Parliament Speaker, Memounatou Ibrahima

By Mark Longyen

The ECOWAS Parliament has expressed concern over the spike in irregular migration of youths from the subregion in search of greener pastures abroad.

ECOWAS Parliament Speaker, Memounatou Ibrahima, made this known at the ongoing 2024 First Ordinary Session of the parliament in Abuja on Wednesday.

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Ibrahima noted that the youths mostly emigrate through irregular means and called for strategies to halt the trend.

She stressed that Members of Parliament must brainstorm on possible ways to invest in the skills and capacity of West African youth and explore their potential for the subregion’s benefit.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the trend of the mass exodus of youths, otherwise called the ‘Japa Syndrome’, has witnessed many skilled youth depart for Europe and other developed countries in search of greener pastures.

Ibrahima’s submission was sequel to the presentation at plenary by Teresa Boteli (Policy and Liaison Officer) of the International Organisation (IOM) about the worrisome trend of African youth emigration using dangerous routes to Europe and North America.

Boteli said that the dangerous journeys undertaken by the youths were exposing them to numerous risks, including human trafficking, exploitation, and death, adding that an estimated 5,000 migrant deaths were recorded in 2023 alone.

It said further that while migrants contribute to cultural exchange and diversity in host countries, they also face significant challenges in terms of integration, discrimination, and legal hurdles in their destination countries.

Despite the dangers (human trafficking, exploitation, loss of life), irregular migration towards North Africa and Europe persists.

An estimated 300,000 West African migrants often use perilous routes through the Sahara Desert and across the Mediterranean Sea annually, as reported by the IOM in 2023.

Contributing to the discussion, the First Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament and Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, said that youth unemployment was responsible for the multifaceted conflicts ravaging the sub-region.

He noted that conflicts around the world, such as the war in Ukraine, among others, had contributed to the crises in West Africa and called for concerted efforts by member states to curb the scourge.

Also contributing, Deputy Speaker Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, called for urgent need to create jobs.

MP Orlando Diaz from Cape Verde said there must be a deep and detailed approach to youth migration scourge, and warned that if urgent steps were not taken, the situation could degenerate into unimaginable consequences.

Sierra Leone’s MP,  Mabinty Funna, said that creating more employment opportunities in member-states would reduce youth migration overseas, adding that the issue was a huge challenge that required a comprehensive approach.

She urged member states to urgently address the issues such as promoting entrepreneurship, which can create more job opportunities for young people.

“Governments can provide training, access to finance, and mentorship to encourage young people to start their own businesses.

“Investment in education and skills development and providing training programmes that are aligned with market needs can help young people acquire the skills needed to access job opportunities in growing sectors.

“We can diversify our economies beyond traditional sectors like agriculture and mining. Investing in sectors such as technology, renewable energy, and manufacturing can create new job opportunities for young people,” Funna said.(NAN)

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