2nd Event of the Series: Religious and Migration in the 21st Century
WOMEN AND MIGRATION IN THE AFRICAN CONTEXT
6th-8th June, 2017 at Dimesse Retreat Center Karen-Nairobi
Augustinians International, Congregations of St Joseph, Franciscans International, Passionists International, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and VIVAT International
These six organizations of international religious groups (nuns, priests, brothers, and lay associates) of the Roman Catholic Church, in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), are part of the leading civil society organizations dealing with issues of migration in over 100 countries. They advocate with other key stakeholders at global, regional and national levels for better and effective migration governance for the dignity of migrants and national development.
Migration is a global burning issue and has generated numerous dialogues and initiatives around the world. Numerous migrants especially women bear the fate of untold challenges and vulnerabilities include those of xenophobia and discrimination. The situation is worse for irregular migrants, and migrants in crisis in transit whose experience of abuse, violence and exploitation knows no bound. The phenomenon is on the increase in extent and severity with the news of recent happenings in different corners of the world. All of this threatens the one thing for which these migrants move in the first place namely their human rights and dignity. Many would rather not move if the situations in their countries of origin were conducive and favorable for the wellbeing.
In continuation of the desire to bring together women and men religious to address how they might respond to this pressing issue of migration, this group of religious congregations’ NGOs at the United Nations organized the second event on the series Religious and Migration in the 21st Century with focus on Women and Migration in the African Context. 1.7% of African population are migrants and 48% are women.
Though women bear positve stories of migration yet they are the most vulernable to negative consequences of migration. Migration can and has helped women escape conflict and personal violence. Women migrants have higher percentage of remittance record. On the other hand, exploitation, forced marrigae, violence, theft, lack of employment and other socio-cultural and religious practices contribute to the explotiation of women through forced migration. Women suffer more during crises, famine and war; women are fourteen times more likely to die than men during diaster. The same is the case of the crises endured in transit.
Though majorly an event for religious men and women, it was well attended by a wide spectrum of stakeholders in migration dynamics including the government, UN and other international agencies as well as CSOs in the administration of migration and refugees.
Contributing to a highly stimulated knowledge and experience sharing were representatives of: International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Kenyan government department of immigration service, Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), a Kenyan-based organization working on awareness against human trafficking (HAART), Amnesty International, Pan African Network in Defense of Migrants’ Rights (PANiDMR), refugees and migrants themselves, local practitioners, and New York-based representatives of religious congregations accredited to the UN.
The conference was perhaps one of the most insightful discussions on migration and refugees ever held in African with the interesting mix of participants, especially between religious groups, international agencies and government. The discussions covered a wide depth of field in migration, trafficking in person and refugee dynamics with particular emphasis on African and women perspective. In line with global dialogues theme, the conference focused on how best to harness the benefits of migration while minimizing its negative effects and in deepening the understanding of migration and refugees dynamics such that there would be a change in the perception of migration, particularly Africa. Participation was interactive, involving the views of the various organizations and agencies that attended the conference. The conference succeeded in throwing light on the efforts and gaps in the systems of responding to migration and refugees.
At the end of the two and half days of intense listening to new insights and shared experiences we were most aware that we are living at a time of turbulence, tension and transition. We are in a time of choice and two paths are ahead of us – fear and self/national interest or hope and shared responsibility. Lack of leadership in this area will be the judge of our time. We cannot afford to be to be adamant to this crisis. Civil Society’s role especially those of faith-based, in this time is critically urgent in all fronts both in navigating advocacy for political will to responding to the issue; providing direct help to the victims but also to stem the tension among citizens on the issue.
It was obvious that different groups are responding in different ways already to issues and concerns of migrants, refugees, diasporas, trafficked victims and IDPs. There are various activities and efforts by the national governments, UN agencies and international organizations towards a constructive national and regional management of migration and direct services to migrants, refugees and victims of trafficking in person. A good number of the civil society organizations also play strategic and supportive roles in these efforts in migration governance in the region. These notwithstanding, there was a startling revelation that migration and refugees’ issues have not received enough attention and collaboration that they ought to have been given in the continent.
A number of things stood out through the conference.
- Migration, refugees, trafficking in persons are overwhelming in nature and sometimes individual responders may and do feel frustrated that their attempts do not seem enough or efficient.
- There has been lack of communication among groups, organization and agencies on issues of migration and the protection of the rights of migrants, refugees and victims of trafficking in person. This is a gap that has limited the capacity of civil society, especially religious groups to be pro-active on migration issues or to canvass common position on the subject.
- There is an obvious gap in the capacity of both the faith-based organization, civil society and the government agencies and entities managing migration dynamics. Lack of capacity to initiate and sustain interventions in migration issues is a critical gap.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION PLAN
Responding to some of the observations some recommendations and action plans were suggested at the various plenary and breakout sessions.
- Capacity building workshop, training for members of religious groups, local communities and critical stakeholders in migration and refugee dynamics. This is in furtherance of building advocacy momentum and effective services for migrant, refugees and victims of trafficking in person.
- In view of this, and for wider impact and inclusiveness, critical stakeholders who were not represented at the meeting such leaders of other religions or faiths, should be contacted and included in future actions on migration.
- The conference recorded a land mark achievement as the participants took the decision to form a conglomerate body to ensure continuity and preservation of this space for the purpose of strengthening dialogue and collaboration among civil society organizations working on any aspect of migration and refugees in Africa.
- The network will provide a collective platform for action to better achieve collective goals, amplify voices, increase visibility, better engage governments, and other stakeholders, through allied interventions and advocacy for the advantage of a critical mass—migrants, refugees, IDPs and their families.
- Another great benefit envisaged from the network is that it will provide link opportunity for individuals and civil society actors in migration and allied issues to connect with the regional and international civil society migration and development network initiatives.
- In furtherance of this objective; it was agreed that the conveners should create a database of religious and kindred groups working on migration, maintain a website for the purpose of information dissemination, experience sharing, contributions among members and organizations and civic education on migration.
- It is recommended that the conveners should organize a follow up conference to evaluate the implementation of the action plans undertaken.
The conference was everything it set out to achieve: It revealed the level of understanding and response of the African religious of migration and refugee issues; brought participants up-to-date on current migration issues in all fronts especially from African and women perspectives; proffered ways to improve grassroots responses including local advocacy through a network for collaboration of efforts and provided insight and perspectives that could enhance civil society advocacy mechanisms in the various global migration governance processes.
It is hoped and there are reasons to believe that both the religious, CSOs, agencies and the government, through sustained interactions, will reposition to effectively tackle the administrative and policy gaps faced on daily and routine basis on migration.
Finally, it is important recalling that it birthed a milestone outcome of a network which is poised to become a platform for action for religious groups and partners who are actors for migration and development intervention within the continent of Africa.
 Full action plans from different breakout sessions working groups are attached as annex to this report.