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New UN migration chief to visit Africa on first trip

The coastguard in Sfax says its units have intercepted about 3,000 migrants in just 10 days, 90 percent of whom are sub-Saharan Africans. — © AFP
The coastguard in Sfax says its units have intercepted about 3,000 migrants in just 10 days, 90 percent of whom are sub-Saharan Africans. — © AFP

The new head of the UN’s migration agency will visit Africa on her first official trip from Sunday to highlight the scale of migration happening around the continent.

Amy Pope, the first woman elected to lead the International Organization for Migration, will then head to Brussels as the 27-member EU bloc deals with a recent influx of migrant arrivals in Italy.

The American, who took office on October 1, will visit the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, before meeting Ethiopian officials.

She will then travel to Kenya and Djibouti.

“Over 80 percent of the migration takes place in Africa,” Pope said at a press briefing in Geneva, at a time when attention is particularly focused on migrants trying to reach Europe.

She also spoke of the large number of African migrants heading for the Gulf, highlighting “very, very troubling reports” about their treatment there.

“Ensuring that there is better protection and access for migrants to services in that context is important,” she added.

“The evidence is fairly overwhelming that migration actually benefits economies… on the whole is a benefit,” Pope went on, citing its role in “fueling the renovation or revitalization of ageing communities,” while providing manpower and innovation.

“It’s critical that IOM begin to engage these partners who recognise the benefits of migration and demonstrate to our member states how that can work in a very pragmatic way, rather than in a political way.”

Pope meanwhile insisted she would “refrain from getting into any direct conflict with Elon Musk,” who courted controversy this weekend in claiming that Berlin-funded migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean could be seen as an “invasion” of Italy.

The tech billionaire is a migrant himself, having been born in South Africa, has Canadian nationality and lives in the United States.

“We hear especially in the technology space, there is an overwhelming need for new ideas (and) for people for a sustainable workforce.

“And frankly, migration is our most obvious way to build out a sustainable workforce,” said Pope, urging investment in skills training as climate change encroaches on ever greater numbers of people.

The treatment of migrant workers who helped build the sites for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar was also a hot-button issue.

The NGO Human Rights Watch more recently accused Saudi border guards of killing hundreds of Ethiopian migrants attempting to enter the country from Yemen.

Riyadh denied the report as “politicised and misleading”.

Pope is to discuss with the African Union the best way of guaranteeing the movement of people, in particular to support the free trade agreements promoted by the organisation.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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