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Lusaka, Thursday, 22 September 2016: The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretariat have launched a flagship training programme on the signature and ratification of the COMESA Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Labour, Services, Right of Establishment and Residence (otherwise known as the Free Movement Protocol).

This training, the first of its kind targets Zambia and Zimbabwe and represents a significant milestone for the COMESA free movement agenda. It brought together representatives from a cross-section of government departments, including Ministries of Home Affairs, Labour, Trade, Foreign Affairs, among others.

The training was intended to contribute to the expedited signature and ratification of the Free Movement Protocol, which despite having been established in 2001 has not yet entered in to force. A minimum of seven ratifications are required for this to happen, and so far, only four Member States have signed, and two have ratified the Protocol.

At the launch of the training in Lusaka this week, Dr. Chileshe Mulenga, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Home Affairs Zambia, commended COMESA and IOM for this initiative, and underscored the need for building the capacity of member States to propel the free movement agenda forward.

Dr. Kipyego Cheluget, COMESA Assistant Secretary General (Programmes), observed that migration holds considerable potential for economic and social growth and development for countries of origin and destination alike, as well as for individual migrants and their families.

“COMESA recognizes the great importance of migration in the context of free trade, and for regional integration to be fully realized, citizens of our member States must be allowed to move freely in order to provide and enhance services, tourism, labour, cultural activities, among other aspects that deepen integration," Dr Cheluget said.

He stressed that a "genuine Common Market", shall be achieved only when the citizens of Member States can move freely within the Common Market.

IOM Zambia Chief of Mission Ms Abibatou Wane emphasized IOM’s commitment to support the COMESA Secretariat and Member States.

“IOM will continue to assist COMESA in the implementation of the Free Movement Protocol in order to make the COMESA objectives on free movement, and indeed the AU Agenda 2063 on regional integration a reality.”

The training programme is being piloted in Zambia and Zimbabwe and will later be rolled out in the 19 COMESA Member States.

The IOM Development Fund supported the programme through a capacity building and awareness raising project for COMESA Member States designed to implement the Free Movement Agenda. This was in response to a request from the COMESA Secretary General, as well as the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe.