By Janet Sesay
The Sierra Leone Labour Congress and different partners in the country have held a one day workshop with regards a legal framework for migration in Sierra Leone. The workshop was held at the solidarity hall in the Labour Congress Office in Freetown.
During the workshop, the Project Coordinator, Emmanuel Kamara, stated that labour migration in Sierra Leone started a very long time ago when the Syrians and Lebanese started trading in the country in the 1800s.
He said the fact remains that because of the state of the economy, which is to a very large extend donor driven, it has been militating against the influx of a significant amount of labour migrants in Sierra Leone. As a result of this, young and energetic Sierra Leoneans are now finding it extremely fashionable to go across borders seeking for employment. This is often done at great perilous routes, mostly across the Saharan and the Mediterranean routes to Europe or the Arab world.
The Coordinator furthered that most of these unsuspecting labour migrants fall into the hands of human traffickers, who exploit them sexually, physically, emotionally and otherwise for their own benefit. Sometimes most of them are being sold out into slavery and prostitution, which violates their fundamental human rights. They work in precarious circumstances without pay or basic labour standard.
“This problem has been further exacerbated by the emergence of recruitment agencies and their legitimization by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, even though the national labour laws do not make such provisions,” Emmanuel stated.
He also stated that these agencies put workers in jobs in banks, security and commercial sectors and most often they are faced with extortion from their earnings.
He said that through the effort of stakeholders, government has developed and adopted two policies on national employment and labour migration and has also recently ratified ILO Conventions 97 and 144 on labour migration, which would provide a roadmap for the effective audit, regulation and enforcement of labour migration in Sierra Leone.
The World Hope International representative, Marian Fullah, said the workshop was very important and timely, adding that working on the framework policy is a very good idea to plan on labour migrants in the country. She said their organization will support the project to the fullest of their ability.
In a presentation done on the role of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Herbert Smith said labour migration is a global issue and if the country can handle it well it will bring development in the country. He said, with the support of ECOWAS, the Ministry will be able to put policies together. He therefore called on the government to appoint labour attaches in all Embassies to carry out related activities.