By Allieu S. Tunkara
The global migration body, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) and other institutions are in a consultation forum on Migration Governance Indicators (MGI).
It is hoped that the consultation will lead to formulation and adoption of a policy that will enhance safe and regular migration for Sierra Leone.
It is an inter-ministerial consultation that involves several institutions including Ministry of Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Health and Sanitation, Social Welfare, Office of National Security, Immigration Department among others.
The MGI which was developed by IOM in 2015 in Partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit has the objective of supporting well-managed migration policy by helping countries assess the comprehensiveness of their migration governance structures and identify priorities.
A set of 90 indicators have been identified to help countries carry out accomplish objectives.
MGI can also be used to ignite discussions by government agencies with other key stakeholders for an effective migration policy.
GMI is anchored on a solid framework adherence to international standards, evidence-based policy formulation, engagement with partners and advancement of the socio-economic well-being of migrants among others.
It is voluntary, consultative and sensitive to local specificities.
Speaking during the consultation workshop, Head of IOM in Sierra Leone, Dr James Bagonza said the consultation on MGI was important as migration is included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2019 National Development Plan by Government.
Dr Bagonza assured participants that the draft report which was developed in the previous consultation with other MDA’s would be looked at and recommendations made for review.
In his address during the occasion, the IOM boss paid attention to cooperation with relevant agencies in the field of migration.
“IOM works with experts with high experience in migration issues to improve migration situation,” he said.
He also reminded participants about the inclusion of ONS as a central player in migration noting that disaster either natural or man-made constitute factors that compel people to migrate.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs was represented in the consultative forum by its Director-General, Mr Duwai Sellu Lungay.
In his contribution, Mr Lungay sees the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a key partner of IOM in addressing challenges of illegal migration.
Whilst in the search for fortunes, he says, migrants encounter certain situations that make them vulnerable.
“Migration is associated with key dimensions that make people vulnerable to abuse as they embark on desperate movements to go through the rough Mediterranean Sea,” he said.
However, Mr Lungay did not lose sight of the positive side of migration especially if properly managed and regulated.
With proper regulation, he said, the benefits of migration are immense than the disadvantages since it brings prosperity and innovations to nations.
He told participants that migration is key to development as it allows millions to seek new opportunities and positively contribute to their own countries.
“There are productive men and women who work and contribute to the economies of their countries and provide remittances for their families through migration,” he told participants.
The Deputy Director-General sounded hopeful that with total cooperation with MDA’s, a consolidated migration policy document would be in place to ensure an orderly, safe and regular migration.
He called for an effective mobilisation of the much needed resources to combat irregular migration in the country.
Mr Lungay does not rule out of a governance migration framework for safe and responsible migration.
In his address to the participants, Minister of Internal Affairs, Panda Noah revealed statistics of deportees sent home from other countries which is a social problem to the country.
Mr Noah said eight people had been sent home form the United States and 200 from the North African country of Niger.
The Internal Affairs Minister further spoke about the problems associated with the free-flow movement of persons within countries in the Mano River Union as well as in the Economic Community of West African States.
“In my recent trip I made to the border communities, people die on the sea between Liberia and Sierra Leone,” he said.
Since migration constitutes the country’s growth, he went on, data had been collected and analysed to inform policy and practice on migration.
Sierra Leone has been grappling with problems of irregular migration which amount to trafficking in persons commonly known as human trafficking.
Quite recently, hundreds of Sierra Leoneans have been sent home from other countries especially from the North African region which share borders with European nations.
In 2019, eight Sierra Leoneans were intercepted and held in a detention camp in Algeria. They were released by the Algerian authorities later after protracted negotiations.
In the Same year, the United States deported 16 Sierra Leoneans who the government accused to have illegally entered the country through irregular migration.
Quite recently, 47 Sierra Leoneans were sent home from the Asian Country of Kuwait after they were taken there through fake recruitment schemes.
Another batch of Sierra Leoneans was also intercepted in the West African nation of Senegal and sent home.
In total, IOM has facilitated the return home of 2,800 West Africans.
Currently, 61 Sierra Leonean women are stranded in another Asian country of Lebanon. They were also taken there through irregular migration.
IOM has been approached by the stranded Sierra Leonean women for assistance, but finds it difficult since Sierra Leone neither owns nor operates an embassy there.
The frequent deportation of irregular migrants to the country constitutes one of the biggest socio-economic problems for the state.
Government has, most times, responded with moratoriums on overseas recruitment to stop the social menace.
It seems quite difficult for government in the light of the porosity of the country’s borders.
A 2018 report by the Ministry of Internal Affairs indicate that Sierra Leone has over 100 illegal crossing points.
Needless to say the crossing points have been used over the years by fake recruiters or traffickers in persons causing the country a big loss of labour and skills talk less of the suffering encountered by victims.
To stop such a situation, a MGI framework which helps countries identify good practices as well as areas with potential for further development on the policy levers to develop migration governance structures is relevant.