Governments in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have been asked to take a second look at existing legal frameworks regarding the movement of children within the community.
This was contained in the recommendations of the study, ‘Child Migration in the Context of Free Movement.’
The study also called for the development of innovative policies and interventions that take into consideration the dynamics of the movement of children from one territory to the other.
According to the study undertaken by a research team comprising Dr. Thomas Yeboah, Dr. Delali Margaret Badasu, Abena Annobea Asare and, Joha Braimah, the current legal framework, policies, knowledge and perspectives regarding free movement in the ECOWAS sub-region largely exclude the dynamics of the movement of young people.
It said while there were various migration-related policies to protect young people, there was no consensus to facilitate, promote and protect the migration of young people with respect to the dynamics of child migration.
“Difficulty in the whole cycle from identification, rescue, family tracing, risk assessment, rehabilitation, care and support, return and reintegration, Contradictions in definitions: the legal definition for a child and socio cultural context of who is a child,” the research findings stated.
The study sought to find out whether ECOWAS has any framework to support children on the move by examined the legal documents, laws and policies on migration that directly or indirectly affected young migrants.
It again focused on the inter-related issues on the movement of young people, including children within the context of free movement regime in West Africa.
The study examined the different migration patterns of young people and the complex interplay of natural and demographic factors, social networks, and human agency, among other factors.
“We also examine the trafficking of children as a consequence of child migration and sustained socio-cultural practices such as child fostering. Ghana is often described as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking,” said Dr Delali Badasu, immediate past Director of the Centre for Migration Studies (CMS) and a research Fellow at the Regional Institute of Population Studies, University of Ghana.
Data shows that out of the 523 migrants rescued in 2018 by both Government machinery and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs), 122 were children while the rests were voluntary migrants.
Abena Annobea Asare noted that the study found government to be working towards changing the narrative of child rescued from being trafficked.
For instance she indicated that 18 persons have been convicted for child trafficking related offences in Ghana, while psychologists and medical screening have been put in place to support rescued children.
Dr. Thomas Yeboah stressed the urgent need for the production of accessible, credible and reliable data on children on the move as well as regional cooperation which is an indispensable ingredient for any initiative that may be considered in this regard while national frameworks are implemented.
“All public and private actors must continue (or begin) to work together on this development issue,” he added.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri