Root Causes of Illegal Migration Must Be Addressed — Prime Minister of Estonia
The Prime Minister of Estonia, Mr Jüri Ratas, has stressed the need to address with utmost seriousness the root causes of illegal migration, which impel thousands of migrants into that perilous plight.
He said it was important that we improved the respect for international law not only by words, but also by deeds and to improve cooperation on the continental scale and cross-border cooperation between the countries of origin and transit.
Prime Minister Ratas noted that it was also important that we have a better account of migrants, especially in transit countries, to ensure that migrants were not overwhelmed by criminal networks preying on human misery.
The focus, he stated, must be on fighting criminal networks more effectively, adding that addressing the root causes was of utmost importance – and the main reasons why people took the risk of treacherous trips in seeking better opportunities in distant countries.
The Estonian Prime Minster was expressing his views on the issue of illegal immigrants and drug trafficking which have gained global attention in recent times and what his country and Ghana could do to help address the situation.
Mr Ratas, who had attended the just-ended African Union – European Union (AU-EU) Summit which took place in La Cote d’Ivoire, told the Daily Graphic that migration was a natural phenomenon of human society which had many reasons and impacts.
He observed: “Migration has positive and negative facets; it could be seasonal, legal and illegal, and the one which is triggered by political and socio-economic conditions. It is a complex phenomenon with different root causes.”
The matter of concern, of course, was illegal migration resulting from a sense of despair, he observed, noting that people did not leave their homes without a good reason.
The first step to fighting illegal migration was to understand its reasons and to act in a way to remove them, he advised.
Unfortunately, he stated, people often left their homes due to political and socio-economic reasons such as political persecution, alienation, civil conflicts, tribal clashes and poverty.
Therefore, calls to promote democracy and good governance, respect human rights and implement socio-economic reforms are not empty words, but action required to create resilient and vibrant societies, he emphasised.
Mr Ratas pointed out that Ghana was one of the pathfinders in this respect, a positive example for its democratic record and economic performance. He further stated that the priorities of the new Ghanaian government, which included administrative reforms, fighting against corruption and inclusive development, were the way to go and to help tackle the root causes of migration.
“Estonia and Ghana, promoting democratic ideals and implementing reforms in our corresponding continents, learning from each other and sharing good practices will be a way to work together and fight the menace of illegal migration,” he stated.
Touching on the inhumane treatment of illegal immigrants, mainly black foreigners, in Libya in recent times, Mr Ratas explained that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948 recognised that dignity, equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family were the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
According to him, the declaration states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.
He noted that unfortunately, what we saw in many cases, not only in Libya, was a deviation and flagrant breach of human rights. Human rights violations take place not because of lack of international law, but due to lack of empathy and the privation of humanity.
The global community must be united in fighting inhumane treatment, he stressed, noting that the adoption of the Joint Statement on the Migrant Situation in Libya during the AU-EU Summit in Abidjan was a good example.
He said it expressed the firm willingness of both continents to condemn any such criminal acts, to work together to put an immediate end to these criminal practices and to ensure the well-being of the migrants and refugees.
President Ratas shared some insights into the Abidjan AU-EU Summit and said the year 2017 had been a defining one for the AU-EU relations as it had been 10 years since the adoption of the Joint Africa-EU strategy.
He stated that it was the right time to renew and strengthen their partnership, and to set strategic priorities, which responded to the challenges of the rapidly changing world.
Africa and Europe are neighbours and partners, he emphasised, adding that the two continents shared many common challenges, especially in the areas of peace and security, economic cooperation, job creation, mobility and migration management, and global issues such as climate change.
The fifth AU-EU Summit, he noted, brought together high-level delegations from more than 80 countries and institutions, indicating the importance of the summit.
One of the key messages of the summit was the need to act together in the spirit of equal partnership, shared ownership and mutual respect.
The leaders adopted a political declaration. It was agreed that their strategic priorities for the period leading to the next summit would be investing in people, strengthening resilience, migration and investments.
Deliberations indicated that we, in Europe and Africa, may sometimes prioritise different aspects of our concerns such as the role of civil society or migration issues. Despite the differences, the ground for common interest and action was wider, he announced.
He said there were many important deliverables in the summit, and mentioned peace and security, where they welcomed an agreement on how to address their common security threats, particularly growing terrorism and trans-border criminal activities, which both had a direct impact on the stability and well-being of our two continents.
Job creation and achieving sustainable and inclusive development were among the main strategic objectives of the summit, and it was essential to support investments in digital economy and other sectors of the economy which were of interest to young people and ensured employment for them.
Entrepreneurship, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, offered the most opportunities for this and the potential of the youth must be unleashed.
In terms of economic cooperation and in relation to the youth, he was happy that the EU and AU leaders recognised for the first time the importance of digitalisation and e-Governance.
As the world faced the process of digital transformation in all aspects of human society, the potential of this sector to create jobs, especially among the youth, was literally limitless.
“My own country is a good example, where we have built an efficient, secure and transparent digital ecosystem that saved time and money,”
Digitalisation of societies is a way forward. It is an area which easily engages and captivates the attention of the youth, he noted.
He said “Digitalisation does not mean loss of jobs to artificial intelligence, but the creation of new types of jobs. It benefits all economic sectors and can play an important role in assisting policy makers to spur economic growth and employment.”
New areas of cooperation
The President spoke on new areas of cooperation to deepen bilateral ties between Estonia and Ghana. Today, the digital economy constitutes a fair share of the global economy with the potential to create millions of jobs in the short to medium term.
He said if effectively applied, digital solutions could enhance the transparency of governance and provide better services.
Their application was not limited to the new sectors of the economy, but could be used in more traditional sectors such as agriculture, also prompting the growth of start-up companies – a concept which was especially attractive to young entrepreneurs.
He recalled that Estonia had the privilege to host the minister of ICT of Ghana in May at the Tallinn e-Governance Conference, focusing on cooperation with Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
Although several delegations from Ghana had visited Estonia, he indicated that they could still strengthen their bilateral political cooperation further, including in international organisations.
Apart from business contacts, he mentioned that they could think of strengthening their cooperation in the field of culture and education, adding that understanding each other’s cultural traditions would help build stronger relations. “Estonia is proud of its strong educational system and institutions,” he stated, saying they were open to listening and seeking new opportunities to deepen the bilateral relations.
President Ratas said they had a very touching meeting with representatives from the Kongo village in the Nabdam District of the Upper East Region, adding that Estonia had supported development cooperation projects conducted by Estonian non-governmental organisation (NGO) Mondo, in cooperation with local partners at Kongo village.
“This meeting showed me the importance of this kind of assistance to the local community. It validated the fact that sometimes, relatively small but targeted assistance could proportionally bring much bigger and needed benefits,” he stated.