Switzerland and Nigeria have successfully concluded negotiations on a migration partnership between the two countries.
This was the highlight of a working visit of the Permanent Secretary of the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Dr. Martin Uhomoibhi, in Bern, where he met with the State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Peter Maurer, and the Director of the Swiss Federal Office for Migration, Alard du Bois-Reymond.
The main focus of the working visit, which took place in the framework of regular political consultations, was on cooperation in migration matters. The Swiss and Nigerian delegations successfully concluded negotiations on a bilateral migration partnership. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which had been under discussion between the two countries since the visit to Abuja of Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey in April 2009, covers cooperation in areas such as capacity building in immigration administration, migration and development, promotion and protection of human rights, regular migration, such as for example exchanges in the field of education and training, the fight against smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings and drugs, return assistance, readmission and reintegration as well as the prevention of irregular migration.
The formal signature of the MoU at ministerial level is planned soon. This MoU on a migration partnership has a pioneering character which will bring cooperation between Switzerland and Nigeria to a new level. The cooperation is designed to be long term, in the interest of both parties and to reflect a comprehensive approach to migration, i.e. an approach acknowledging both opportunities and challenges of migration. It is the first such agreement between Switzerland and an African country.
Today’s political consultations offered a platform to exchange views on the way forward, the concrete implementation of the partnership and potential joint initiatives and projects. Among many other subjects, the two delegations explored possibilities to further enhance the Swiss Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme, successfully offered to returning Nigerians since 2005. Exploratory talks with Swiss companies operating in Nigeria were initiated aiming at identifying pilot opportunities in relation to vocational training for a selected number of Nigerian youth. In the area of migration and development, Switzerland will extend to Nigeria an already existing regional system for the identification, protection and reintegration of young stranded migrants and vulnerable children. Both sides agreed to further involve diaspora Nigerians in Switzerland in the partnership.
The unfortunate incident of March 17, 2010, at Zurich airport, where a young Nigerian about to be repatriated to Nigeria died, was also a subject of discussion. The Swiss side reiterated its regrets. Both delegations took stock of the series of practical measures to improve the repatriation process to avoid a reoccurrence, jointly developed over the last few months. These include the agreement that Nigerian officials will participate in the entire repatriation process. Permanent Secretary Uhomoibhi expressed his satisfaction with these measures. Both parties stressed that every measure must be jointly taken to ensure that the repatriation process is carried out in dignity and respect. Therefore it was agreed to resume regular cooperation based on the terms of the bilateral readmission agreement of 2003, including the resumption of repatriation flights starting on January 1, 2011. Before that date, normal cooperation, such as identification missions by Nigerian officials and the participation of Nigerian returnees in FRONTEX flights to Nigeria, will gradually be phased in.
The two delegations further discussed areas of mutual interest, such as bilateral trade and investment, the common fight against illicit assets, peace operations in Sub-Saharan Africa, the security situation in the Saharo-Sahelian regional area, the Nigerian chairmanship of ECOWAS as well as the review of the Human Rights Council. In spring 2011, a group of young Nigerian diplomats will participate in a month-long training in Geneva and Bern, together with their Swiss counterparts. State Secretary Peter Maurer accepted Permanent Secretary Martin Uhomoibhi’s invitation to a next round of bilateral consultations in Abuja in 2011.