There should be relevant mechanisms for the protection of migrants in countries in crisis, officials said yesterday.
The remarks were made during a consultative meeting on migrants in crisis in Eastern and Southern Africa, in Bugesera District.
Bayani V. Mangibin, Ambassador of Philippine to East Africa, based in Kenya, who spoke on behalf of Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) co-chairmanship, said that there were 225 migrants in 2010 and 191 million in 2005.
The number of international migrants increased rapidly to 244 million in 2015 worldwide, reflecting a 41 per cent increase compared to 2000, according the 2015 international migrant report of the United Nations Economic and Social Affair Department.
Of those migrants, almost 20 million were refugees.
The consultations intended to discuss and analyse relevant mechanisms for the protection of migrants in countries in crisis, identifying priorities for action as well as the gaps and need in terms of cooperation at national, regional and international levels.
Mangibin said, in terms of impact, the 2030 agenda for sustainable development recognises the significant contribution of migration in attaining inclusive growth and sustainable development.
It also recognises that international migration is a moving dimensional reality of major relevance for the development of countries of origin, transit and destination.
He, however, noted that migrants are not taken care of during crisis situations and in host countries as nationals are.
He said no framework exists to establish responsibilities of states and key international agencies to take care of migrants.
The meeting offered an opportunity to set up a framework that ensures the integration of key groups and responsibilities of all those involved in preparation and response to the needs of migrant offices in countries experiencing difficult situations, he said.
While opening the meeting, Johnston Busingye, the Minister for Justice and Attorney General, said the consultation is taking place at time the number of migrants around the world is increasing, requiring action in developing global mechanisms to deal with migrants in times of crisis.
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs indicates that 65 per cent of African migrants originate from East and Southern Africa.
The minister said, between 1994 and 2015, the Government of Rwanda repatriated and reintegrated upwards of 3.5 million Rwandans.
“The Government of Rwanda has established a strong engagement with the Rwandan community abroad to ensure that while they remain geographically far from the Rwandan soil, they are nevertheless legally Rwandans, they can come home and settle how and when they wish they should be part and parcel of the development of their country,” he added.
Busingye observed that no person is born a migrant and that the issue of migrants should be given enough attention to ensure their welfare because anyone might be a migrant.
Anaclet Kalibata, the Director General of the Immigration and Emigration Directorate, said there is need for the issue of migrants to be prioritised and treated with common understanding.
Citing Burundians in the country, Kalibata said Rwanda has had open door policy of welcoming migrants.
Rwandans who were evicted from Tanzania in recent years were resettled in Rwanda, he added.
“Importantly, the policy in Rwanda is one that ensures first that when a Rwandan has a problem where they are, Rwanda can support them and when they reach the country, means are sought to ensure their welfare depending on the state of the situation,” he said.
He noted that government is looking for ways to help Rwandans who were recently evacuated from Zambia, amid xenophobic attacks.
Participants came from Angola, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Philippines.
Others were from the European Commission, UNHCR, among others.
Various topics were discussed, including response to xenophobic violence, assistance to migrant women during emergencies, the inclusion of migrants in natural disaster management strategies, and the inclusion of urban migrants in crisis preparedness strategies.
The regional consultations started from Philippines, then South America, Europe, North Africa, Asia, Far-east before Rwanda.
The resolutions from the consultations will be taken to the UN General Assembly in September 2016 for consideration.