"I have changed my mind,"said Apollo Masete (photo), when reflecting on his perceptions and attitudes around migration and on what he had learned during his year-long postgraduate diploma course on migration at the Kenya Institute of Migration Studies (KIMS) in Nairobi. "I wasn’t aware that a country can benefit so much from migration. Like many other Ugandans, for most of my life I perceived migration as a threat and a problem," he continued, "but migrants can fill labour gaps, contribute to services, and increase government budgets through taxes and social security contributions. They also send money back home, which benefits their families and the economy of their countries."
Before being nominated by his boss to take part in the diploma course, Masete worked as an immigration official for Uganda’s Department of Immigration Services and was based in Karamoja on the country’s north-eastern border with South Sudan. His daily routine involved coordinating border security and working with refugees; conducting border patrols in conjunction with other security officers; issuing entry passes, visas and other travel documents; and writing reports on incidents at the border.
"My thinking was limited to arrivals and departures," 41-year-old Masete explained. ‘Border security was more important to me than the migrants or refugees, whom I mostly saw as intruders. I used to think migration management was about protecting Uganda, but migration is mixed. We are dealing with regular migration as well as irregular and forced migration including human trafficking and people smuggling.’ Masete now sees his work as encompassing different solutions for different types of migrants. "I now look at an immigrant from a business perspective, as someone who is likely to benefit our society, or as someone who might require my help,"he said.
Places on the KIMS course were offered to all member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Therefore, the course’s students came from a range of countries and could share their different experiences and brainstorm solutions for various challenges. "I was thrilled to meet others working in migration management from different countries in the region such as Somalia, Kenya and Sudan," Masete said. "We should work together better because migration will always be there. We need better planning and bilateral agreements between different countries." Currently some 300,000 migrants, mainly from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are living in Uganda. Masete also sees that the complexity of immigration must be reflected in migration policies.
Postgraduate study boosts career prospects
Students completing the diploma not only come away with new perspectives on migration; their careers and home countries also benefit from their new expertise. "After the diploma course I was promoted. I became an expert, so I was invited to join the training committee at the Directorate of Immigration where I could contribute my expertise" said Apollo Masete.
According to Mohamoud Ismail, Masete’s fellow student from Somalia, a lot has changed in his life too: "I became a Senior Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Somalia" "and now I am working with my colleagues on tabling a bill in Parliament to bring immigration policy in line with the regional and international immigration frameworks."
Growing interest in the KIMS course
Of the 25 students enrolled in the first KIMS course, all completed their coursework and 21 went on to graduate in December 2020. "Now, we have another 25 students joining in the next intake, and we have expanded from four countries to five, namely Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya," Dr Khasakhala Director of the Population Studies and Research Institute at the University of Nairobi said.
Apollo Masete has also successfully lobbied. The Ugandan Directorate of Immigration is now planning to send another ten Ugandans on the KIMS course with a view to further professionalising migration practice in the country. "My boss emphasised that he would continue to train more staff to strengthen the department," said Masete.
About the programme
The Better Migration Management (BMM) programme, working with the Kenyan Department of Immigration Services, set up the Kenya Institute of Migration Studies (KIMS) to improve national and regional migration governance in close coordination with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU). The Graduate School of Governance at Maastricht University, a renowned institution on matters of migration governance, provided KIMS with technical support on the curriculum development process.
The University of Nairobi hosts and provides the certificates for the postgraduate diploma in migration management. Both the KIMS and the postgraduate diploma in migration studies have been implemented with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and International Organization for Migration (IOM). BMM is co-funded by the European Union, through its Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, and by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).