First annual meeting of the Network of Legal Experts on Migration in West and Central Africa covering the topic of Migration & Detention
La Somone - IOM’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa convened the Network of Legal Experts on Migration in West and Central Africa’s first annual thematic conference in La Somone, Senegal, focusing on Migration and Detention on March 14-16th, 2023.
Building on the inaugural meeting of the Network in Lomé, Togo, in November 2022, the Network’s 12 members, legal scholars and practitioners from 12 countries in West and Central Africa, Steering Committee, IOM, UN partners, and representatives from regional and international organizations presented country briefs and exchanged views and experiences on migration and detention in the region. These discussions were a first step in supporting Member States to contribute towards Objective 13 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which contains detailed provisions on alternatives to detention. The outcome of the presentations and extensive discussions on migration detention in the experts’ countries of origin and continentwide will be captured in a publication to be launched this summer.
Kristina Mejo, IOM’s Deputy Regional Director, highlighted in her opening remarks that “IOM’s work focuses on minimizing the negative impact of detention on a migrant’s physical and mental well-being, noting that IOM assists governments in achieving humane detention conditions and establishing alternatives to migration detention.” Dr. Fatima Diallo, Vice-chair of the UN Committee on Migrant Workers, emphasized that despite a comparatively low total number of ratifications, most countries in West and Central Africa are Member States of the Migrant Workers Convention. Maya Sahli-Fadel, Vice-chair of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, invited the Network’s members to participate in a panel discussion at the Commission’s next session in May 2023. Furthermore, ECOWAS representative Osondu Ekeh expressed their willingness to cooperate with the Network and encouraged its legal experts to continue with their work.
To date, the Network activities have been supported by IOM’s Migration Resource Allocation Committee (MIRAC) funding. IOM, together with Network members, will work to fundraise for longer-term funding to support future projects in the coming months.
The Network aims to create a platform to foster debate, facilitating an exchange of expertise between members and policymakers, organizations, and authorities. It also seeks to promote information-sharing on migration dynamics and priorities in West and Central Africa and to curate an accessible collection of national and regional migration law, policy, and commentary. At the meeting, Dr. Abdou Khadre Diop, lecturer and researcher at the Université Virtuelle du Sénégal, took up the position as first president of the group of legal experts.