AU Ministerial Conference on Migration, Statement by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco, 09 January 2018

HE Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco;
HE Mamadi Toure, Chairperson of the AU Executive Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Guinean Compatriots of the Republic of Guinea;
HE Ms Amira Elfadil Mohammed, Commissioner for Social Affairs of the African Union Commission;
Ambassador Hassan Abdelmoneim Mostafa, Senior Advisor for MENA region of the International Organisation of Migration,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me at the outset to express my heartfelt appreciation to His Majesty King Mohammed VI and the Government and people of the Kingdom of Morocco for hosting this important meeting of the African Union. My delegation and I have been received with warm hospitality and for that we express our appreciation. 

Let me also just say that we are pleased that Morocco has returned home to the African Union fold.  It is our hope that Morocco’s return will enable the dialogue necessary to assist us to resolve the outstanding issues of our continent in accordance with the principles of international law, including the United Nations and the AU.

We meet here, however, to discuss, under the rubric of the AU, the burning issue of migration.

As we discuss issues of migration, we should mindful of the scourge of slavery that has reared its ugly head, where migrants looking for bright futures for themselves and their families are sold into slavery. We should take a stand together and condemn this practice along with those engaging in and profiting from it.

Chairperson, Excellencies,

Palaeontologists tell us that the modern Homo sapiens emerged about 200,000 years ago in Africa and some the earliest fossils of our species have been found in South Africa.

The human population has since then exploded and through migration populated almost every dry part of the planet, from mountain tops to islands, and we have even ventured into space. All peoples of the world trace their origins to that hardy band of our ancestors who set out from Africa millennia ago to fill and change the world.

Thus we can assert that migration, the movement of significant numbers of people in search of better prospects, is as old as humanity itself; migration is a gift to humanity and to our shared future.

Our position has always been that the problem is not migration.  The problem is involuntary migration, where people leave the countries of their birth and residence, not in order to expand their horizons, but out of desperation, or fear, or in search of livelihoods.

Our concern, our objective should therefore be to eradicate poverty and conflict on our continent, so that when people do want to leave for other countries, they do so out of choice and not desperation.  That should be our objective.

Chairperson, Excellencies,

Allow me also to add that we need to guard closely and maintain a united front against any and all attempts at the securitisation of migration issues. 

Migration offers major potential opportunities to Africa, provided that it is well managed and coordinated. As recognised in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and as envisaged in the AU’s own texts, including Agenda 2063, migrants make a clear and positive contribution to inclusive growth and sustainable development, in particular when they move, not out of desperation but out of choice.

The African Union’s efforts in this regard, is therefore timely and of great importance.

Chairperson, Excellencies,

South Africa recognises that political instability and the quest for better socioeconomic habitation are but two key drivers of the displacement of people.  We also recognise that there cannot be economic prosperity and sustainable development without peace on the Continent. Therefore, concerted regional, continental and global efforts to address the questions of underdevelopment and armed conflict should be a central focus of all Member States.

South Africa will continue to argue for the adoption of a regional collaboration approach which will include burden sharing in addressing migration.  The central role and responsibility of transit countries need to be highlighted and defined. This will require harmonization of refugee policies and legislation as well as ratification of relevant international instruments. 

To this end, South Africa recently adopted a new White Paper on International Migration which advocates for an Afrocentric migration approach. Our African common position must reflect this Afrocentricism as encapsulated in Agenda 2063.

We need to consider, as Africans, a more sustainable migration within the African Development Agenda. We should, for example, consider how to facilitate greater free movement of African citizens within the continent in a secure and sustainable manner. 

We should also think about how we can utilise our advantages, including resource-wealth, arable land and youthful populations, to advance our continent and make it more attractive for Africans to stay home and develop our continent.

Chairperson, Excellencies,

Given the importance we attach to regional and continental integration, South Africa supports the majority of the provisions of the AU Draft Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment, as they balance the objective of facilitating the free movement of persons in Africa and securing policy space for AU Member States to determine how best to implement the Protocol taking into account national circumstances.

However, there are a number of provisions in the AU Draft Protocol which present a challenge not only for South Africa but also other AU Member States. For instance, during the negotiations of the protocol South Africa proposed the inclusion of enablers or preconditions that must be met before the implementation of the protocol, including the achievement of peace and security, effective civil registration systems and bilateral return agreements

Chairperson, Excellencies,

These enablers are necessary for an orderly migration process that could benefit the continent.

South Africa regards this Ministerial Conference on Migration as one of the avenues for consolidating the Common African Position (CAP) on the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. As we engage negotiations towards the Global Compact, we should strive for integrated border management, the treatment of refugees in a humane manner, including through the abolishing of camps and management of irregular migration.

Chairperson, Excellencies,

Our common humanity can never allow us to become immune or indifferent to the suffering of our fellow Africans who find themselves to be migrants.

I am reminded that President Zuma recently highlighted to Heads of State and Government from Africa and Europe that in addressing the challenges related to migration “we need to examine its root causes such as environmental degradation, insecurity and instability, climate change and the lack of economic opportunities that compel our youth to sacrifice the blessing of family life and familiar surroundings to migrate.”

Thank you for the opportunity given to my delegation to address this august assembly.


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