“Poverty and conflicts are not the major factors”
A policy forum convened to discuss migration in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region challenged a well-established narrative developed by Europeans.
Panelists Aron Teklezgi of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Demissie Fantaye of Life and Peace Institute were expected to repeat or otherwise support the old tales of migrations that have been heard from the West that migration is mainly triggered by poverty and conflict and in fact mainly happens across the border to Europe.
However, both panelists, with a slight difference, argued that “Illicit migration from the IGAD region” mainly happens among the member states and the countries themselves are hosts, and are not only sources of migrants and the push factors are not mainly poverty and war.
“The EU side, that’s totally a mistake, politely to say the least,” Aron argued, adding that “Seeking a better opportunity forces people to migrate internally or across borders”.
He emphasized that particularly in the IGAD region, there are empirical evidences that show that the migration rate increases with the increment of economic growth.
Demissie, on his part, seconded the former panelist on the basic argument, but slightly differed on the conclusion on what really drives migration. “Economic growth, which does not create jobs, creates structural unemployment. That’s where we have to start to fight.”
On the rest, he started with the issue of framing. “How we define the problem really matters,” he said. “We had been told crossing the borders to Europe is migration; not exactly true”. He mentioned figures related to mobility within the region and across the borders to Europe.
“Seventy five percent of mobility is confined to the region. The region produces 3.5 million refugees and hosts 2.46 million internally-displaced migrants,” he stressed.
Mentioning, for example, Ethiopia, as the first African country in hosting huge number of migrants, Demissie argued member countries are hosting more than their fair share.
Ali Issa Abdi (PhD), managing-director of the Horn Economic and Social Policy Institute (HESPI) that organized the forum, said the IGAD region is still considered as the primary source of migrants and large stock of internally displaced people. He urged member country policymakers to change their mind about the established narratives on migration and look for home-grown cross-border solutions.
Entitled “Illicit migration from the IGAD region and its implications”, the high-level forum, held at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Addis Ababa, brought together representatives from IGAD member states, AU, UN agencies, civil society and academic institutions.