The Media Network on Migration (MENOM) Foundation and the Centre for Migrations Studies (CMS) of the University of Ghana have trained journalists and students to equip them with knowledge on migration and the ECOWAS card.
The training workshop, on the theme: "Acquiring the ECOWAS Card in Ghana: Challenges and Opportunities for the Ghanaian Citizen," sought to enhance the knowledge of media personnel in helping to increase awareness of the public on the Ghana/ECOWAS card.
Mrs Patience Gbeze, the Project Director of MENOM Foundation, said the workshop was part of a project aimed at improving the effective implementation of the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocol in Ghana and Sierra Leone.
She said the MENOM Foundation and CMS were implementing series of project activities under the 'MADE West Africa Project'.
She said the MADE West Africa project was being undertaking by CMS in collaboration with partners in the United Kingdom and France and coordinated by the International Catholic Migration Commission Europe in Brussels, Belgium with funding from the European Union.
Since its inception, she explained, members of the Foundation, who are media personnel with special interest in migration, had been reporting to inform the public on rights of immigrants, the dangers involved in illegal migration, pre-information on migration, and intra-African mobility among others.
Mrs Gbeze said the Foundation aimed at engaging border officials, journalists, migrant communities and travellers around the border towns on the rights and safety of migrants as well as the significance of acquiring genuine documents before traveling.
She noted that the Foundation was of the firm belief that any form of migration, if coordinated well, especially by government and its agencies, could bring enough revenue and development to both the sending and the receiving countries as well as migrants and dependents left behind.
Professor Alex Asiedu, an Inter-Faculty Member of the CMS at the University of Ghana who chaired the workshop said the Centre was proud to help in building the capacity of journalists in gathering evidence-based reportage on migration-related stories.
The theme for the workshop, he said, was significant and timely at a time that the Government of Ghana had begun the issuance of national identity cards, which doubled as an ECOWAS Identity cards.
Prof. Asiedu said there was the need for intensification of awareness and knowledge sharing among the public with regards the importance of acquiring the card, adding that, the media had a major role to play in that regard.
The Assistant Commissioner of Immigration (ACI) Francis Palmdeti, the Head of Corporate Affairs at the National Identification Authority (NIA) in an interview with the Ghana News Agency said the Authority had so far issued more than 1.7 million cards out of the over 2.5 million people who registered.
He said the NIA had developed a plan to clear the backlogs, as it had set up two collection centres in each district in the Greater Accra and Volta Regions.
He disclosed that the strategy adopted was to call registered individuals to pick up their cards once they were due for collection to avoid congestion at the centres.
In his presentation, ACI Palmdeti said the ECOWAS Biometric Identity Card through a common platform across borders within the ECOWAS region would facilitate mobility of persons and goods in the region.
The regional cooperation among ECOWAS member states on identity management would assist to address terrorism, irregular migration and trafficking of persons across the region, he explained.
ACI Palmdeti said areas for the mandatory use of the National ID card would include the application for and issuance of passport, a driver's license, purchase of insurance policies, transactions pertaining to individuals in respect of pensions and payment of taxes.
Dr Ebenezer Nikoi, a Key Researcher in the 'Migration out of Poverty' Research project said there was the need to enhance the harmonisation of national labour policies and laws on trade and immigration with ECOWAS protocols.
For easy mobility of persons and goods, he said, there was the need for ECOWAS member states to stop border officials from harassing migrants and asking them to make unofficial payment at borders.
Dr Nikoi said the informality of labour markets, lack of formal jobs, and weak labour market information systems had been constraints of labour market that needed to be addressed to enhance the unity of Community member states.