ECOWAS on Wednesday said it would not take lightly the maltreatment of its citizens across countries in Northern Africa.
The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel Alain de Souza, said this this while presenting the Status Report on the State of the Community to the Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.
De Souza was represented by the commission’s vice president, Edward Singhatey.
Following the presentation of the report, parliamentarians raised concerns over efforts made by the sub-regional bloc to investigate reports on African migrants being maltreated and sold into slavery in some North African countries, notably, Libya.
Some members of parliament also expressed concerns over the requests made by Tunisia to be an observer country and Morocco to be a member of ECOWAS respectively, in spite of reported abuse against African migrants in those countries.
The commission’s president, however, called for thorough investigation of such reports and judicial enquiries to be made to ensure that perpetrators of acts of abuse were brought to justice.
“The problem is that at this point in time, we do not have anything official from Morocco or Tunisia. We hear about it but there is no proper or thorough investigation and there is nothing documented.
“With regard to their inclusion in ECOWAS, they will be bound to ensure that they look after our citizens within their shores; but at the end of the day, there is no guarantee with regards to that.
“Through engagement we will be able to put our interests forward to ensure that these states know that we do not take likely the maltreatment of any of our community citizens and what is happening across North Africa right now is unacceptable.”
He further urged member states to continually condemn the maltreatment of African citizens in Libya.
According to him, the bloc has commenced the assessment of the situation and sought assistance from the international community to repatriate and reintegrate citizens.
He also reiterated that there were several measures put in place by the bloc to skilfully engage the youth to curb the illegal migration.
“We do not know how many exactly of our youths are in Libya or where all of them are because we understand that some of them are being held in different detention centres.
“We do not have enough funds to go to Libya and bring them, so we have written to the International Organisation for Migration for immediate and urgent assistance.
“We are still trying to stop the tide of youths flowing northwards; we have to keep them (youths) by giving them reasons to stay and find decent living for themselves.
“But if we continue this trend with very little funds, there is also very little we can do. We are constantly engaging our donours to try to immediately do something for us.”
He further said that the ongoing European Union-African Union Summit in Abidjan sought to address the challenges of illegal youth migration and terrorism.