African leaders, under the umbrella of the African Union (AU), have embarked on finding lasting solutions to Africa’s migration and refugee crisis.
African leaders, who have gathered at the headquarters of the AU in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa as part of a two-day annual AU heads of state session from Feb. 10 to 11, have underscored migration and refugee situations on top of their agenda.
The move came amid mounting pressures that the African continent is currently facing due to rising rate of calamities associated with refugees and internally displaced people – the latest of which saw more than 130 African refugees went missing along Djibouti’s Red Sea coast after two migrant boats capsized earlier this month.
According to figures from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, the Sub-Saharan Africa region currently hosts more than 26 percent of the world’s refugee population, while the number has soared in recent years, partly due to ongoing crises in the Central African Republic (CAR), Nigeria, South Sudan, as well as new conflicts that have erupted in Burundi and Yemen.
Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat told African leaders during the ongoing summit that the issue of forced displacements in Africa “remains sadly remarkable.”
“It is important to tackle more deeply the root causes of the phenomenon, in parallel with the acceleration of the operationalization of the African humanitarian agency,” the Chairperson has noted.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who is also the current chairperson of the AU, further called for efforts to promote peace and security as well as solidarity with refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Sisi also told the 32nd AU leaders’ summit, being held under the theme “Refugees, Returnees and IDPs: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced displacement in Africa,” that the AU would work in solidarity and partnership with all AU member countries to solve the huge challenge.
The African continent has received much praise from the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said that “despite the continent’s own social, economic and security challenges, Africa’s governments and people have kept borders, doors and hearts open to millions in need.”
“The world has drawn constant inspiration from Africa’s leadership and vision towards finding lasting solutions to forced displacement,” Guterres said Sunday.
“In the search for durable solutions to forced displacement, the world and, indeed, I personally have drawn constant inspiration from African leadership, African vision and African compassion,” Guterres added.
According to Guterres, Africa’s leadership to secure the adoption of two pivotal global compacts last year on refugees and on safe, orderly and regular migration was vital.
“Over many years, it has become clear to me: Africa’s generosity to those seeking havens from war and persecution is unmatched,” the UN chief said, indicating that welcoming refugees and displaced people has not been the same case elsewhere.
International organizations such as the AU, UNHCR and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) have also urged the continent to galvanize support from a wide variety of AU partners to the theme of the year 2019, which focuses on root causes and solutions to forced displacement.
According to UNHCR’s Representation Office to the AU and ECA, the African continent hosts some 6.3 million refugees and asylum seekers and 14.5 million IDPs. The region also hosts 712,000 stateless persons.
The AU often put conflicts and violence on top of the various factors, which also include natural disasters and climate change, resulting in humanitarian crisis and forced displacement.
As African leaders presently gather to find lasting solution to the crisis, the AU associated the root causes for displacement situations in Africa as multi-faceted, context-specific and require different strategic responses by states, humanitarian and development actors.
The year 2019 is declared Africa’s year of refugees and migration as the 55-member continental bloc AU is marking the 50th year anniversary of the adoption of the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa as well as the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the 2009 AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa.