Experts on visa issues from the ECOWAS member states have met on the deployment of the regional visa (ECOVISA) aimed at facilitating the seamless movement of citizens of West African states within the region.
The Directorate of Communications in the ECOWAS Commission disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.
The experts held a virtual meeting on August 4, to present and discuss security features for the ECOVISA document.
They also discussed the necessary accompanying measures for the implementation of the decision of the heads of state and government of ECOWAS on the matter.
According to the ECOWAS Commission, besides consolidating the proposed road map for the roll-out and deployment of the ECOVISA, the experts are also examining data exchange/registration platforms.
This platform, it explains, takes cognisance of migrants amongst member states’ consular services, host country immigration services, and ECOWAS itself.
It stated that Tei Konzi, ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Trade, Customs, and Free Movement, said it was important for delegates to make concrete recommendations for future validation by regional ministers in charge of security and migration.
Mr Konzi, who declared the meeting open, noted that the regional visa should help facilitate mobility in the ECOWAS area.
He stressed that in working out modalities for the proper implementation of ECOVISA, member states are to be engaged in developing a regional visa roadmap for the emergence of a Schengen-type visa for the region.
He added that this should be done while reassessing and updating the consideration of the evolution of migration in the ECOWAS region especially during the COVID-19 period.
“Commissioner Konzi particularly took note of the need for a consolidation of the roadmap proposed for the deployment of ECOVISA, the data exchange and registration platform for migrants.
“At the level of consular services of ECOWAS member states and immigration from host countries and ECOWAS,” he said.
Mr Konzi also disclosed that the commission’s expectations are for the regional visa to be made a powerful tool for tourism, a source of foreign exchange, and to create a regional environment conducive for the free movement of investors and foreign workers.
He thanked stakeholders, representatives of the technical and financial partners of ECOWAS for their support in the strengthening of regional integration, peace, cohesion, and socio-economic development.
The commission said that Hassane Ismail, Chair of the meeting and Commissioner of Police of Niger, underscored the importance of the meeting’s agenda while looking forward to the progress to be made.
It noted that amid presentations, the delegates also ascertained the status of information requests for citizens domiciled in the ECOWAS host nation to immigration offices.
They also considered the increased understanding by member states’ delegates of the shared regional opportunities and challenges presented by the harmonised visa.
The adopted recommendations of the meeting are expected to be submitted to the ECOWAS Ministerial Meeting for further consideration.