Southern African Development Communities (SADC) does not have a regional migration policy. Service standards and migration requirements vary from country to country within the SADC. This is what the chairperson of FOCCISA Reverend Suzanne Membe-Matale said last week Friday, addressing about 1000 delegates at the launch of the Civil Society Barometer ahead of of the SADC summit in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Matale said the United Nations Economic Commission made the same observation and reported that most African countries suffer from lack of comprehensive migration policies. She said: “This makes a strong case for SADC to develop a framework for the management and regulation of migration in Southern Africa. Although SADC came up with a draft protocol on the free movement of persons in 1995, which was later revised into the 1997 protocol on the facilitation of movement of persons in SADC, progress towards free movement of persons remains slow.”
According to Matale, only five countries had ratified the significantly revised (1995 draft) protocol on the facilitation of movement of persons by November 30 2010. “Through UNIVISA, for external tourist, it appears that SADC’s focus is more promoting the movement of external people into SADC as opposed to focusing on citizens of the region. It is also fair to note that some foreigners usually outlive their welcome in the countries. It is also true that some of them have been involved in criminal activities ranging from drug trafficking, prostitution, human and small arms trafficking,” she explained. She added by saying that the governments of receiving countries have had to spend a great deal of resources in combating these.
Matale said the mandate of the SADC secretariat is by and large coordination of the implementation of decisions of the council of Ministers and Summit, fortunately using a shoe string budget. “It appears that the Secretariat lack a mandatory enforcement mechanism to drive the regional agenda. The formation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (PF) was to fill the gap created through the lack of direct participation of the citizenry. However the powers and functions of the Parliament are limited to domestic issues of SADC countries. The parliament does not have law making powers or any relationship to the SADC law making organs. SADC PF is only indirected involved through participation in some Ministerial Committees as an observer,” she said.
She added: “Many decisions are made by SADC leaders but still there is no evidence of feedback and accountability to the broader citizenry, parliamentarians and other stakeholders. The SADC Treaty states in Article 23 that in pursuance of the objective of the Treaty. SADC shall seek to involve fully the people of the region and non-governmental organization (NGOs) in the process of regional organization”.
Matale said although SADC is largely a state-centric organization, there is a trend towards the gradual opening up to civil society among other notable developments. She said their strong intent as civil society is to engage SADC and show in their number through the collection of signatures.
“We are serious about the instruments that have a direct benefit to the ordinary citizens of the region. By calling for the free movement of people, a regional court of justice and a regional parliament with teeth. We seek to claim ownership to the SADC we want and not the SADC they want for us. SADC civil society seeks to deepen democracy in the region and will also seek to empower SADC citizens towards their full participation in social, political and economic activities towards liberation and attainment of dignity for all people,” concluded Matale.