Sirte, Libya (PANA) – African immigration ministers have accepted « in principle » the concept of an African Diplomatic Passport, and recommended consultations ahead of its introduction.
The ministers said in a report the proposed diplomatic passport should be limited to specified categories of African personalities to serve as a starting point for the issuance of an ordinary African Passport.
The recommendation is contained in a report on the African Union (AU) Conference of Ministers on Immigration held in Tripoli, Libya 17-18 June, on the establishment of free movement within Africa.
Forty-four AU member States attended the Tripoli meeting, which discussed liberalisation of visa regimes, right of residence, African passport and deportation and mass expulsion.
The report will be tabled at the 1-2 July AU Executive Council meeting here for deliberation and submission to the 5th Ordinary Summit of AU leaders slated here for 4-5 July.
The ministers noted that « stringent » immigration systems hindered free movement, saying the common passport would « infuse a common identity among Africans and be a political symbol and tool for African integration. »
According to them, a common a travel document should « reflect the spirit of integration and unity for Africa. »
The ministers also stressed the need to build upon existing sub-regional mechanisms to develop an Africa-wide operational framework that would facilitate free movement within the continent.
They cited arrangements being negotiated or operational in regional communities such as CEN-SAD, COMESA, ECOWAS, ECCAS, IGAD, SADC and EAC as worthy of emulation in attaining the continent-wide version of free movement.
But the ministers, however, advised that the free movement concept be « pursued gradually, » recognising the « complexity » of related issues and the possible negative impact on areas such as labour market, national security, brain drain and political implications as well as the economic imbalance between weak and strong economies.
They proposed informed, detailed and comprehensive studies of the concept of free movement as well as harmonisation of laws, policies, regulations and institutional systems of free movement in Africa.
The minister also called for a committee of experts and a specialised office within the AU Commission to coordinate activities related to the elaboration and implementation of the free movement concept.