Celebrating International Migrant’s Day In Liberia

Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Sandra Tumwesigye

To mark this year’s International Migrant’s day, IOM partnered with the Liberia Ministry of Justice and Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization to host a multicultural event at the University of Liberia park in Monrovia. The outdoor event included a photo exhibition and musical performances from migrant’s communities representing Sierra Leone, Lebanon, Nigeria and India with the aim of celebrating migrants and sharing their stories.

“Today, though music and dance from migrant and Liberian communities, we would like to convey a message of solidarity with migrants and emphasize the incredible cultural, social and economic value they bring to societies around the world” IOM Chief of Mission, Salvatore Sortino explained.

Samar Abou Sharaf told the story of the first Lebanese to arrive in Liberia in the early 20th century, the growth to about 20,000 migrants and the contributions of the existing 5,000 Lebanese who contribute to Liberia economically, socially and politically with 3 ministers of Lebanese origin.

Mohamed Dukuly, a migrant of Sierra Leonean origin and the lead musician of the Young Cultural Dance Troupe told his story of fleeing to Liberia and making it his home. He declared, “I came to Liberia in 1991, I love this country as my motherland and I know that I will be able to succeed in Liberia.” His dance troupe, shared the music and dances of Sierra Leone.

The music of Nigeria was shared by the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, led by Chief Justin Oguaba who spoke about the struggles youth face as they migrate and the need for their full potential to be realized. This was rounded off with traditional dances by ladies of the UNMIL Indian Formed Police Unit representing the Indian Community in Liberia.

In line with the day’s theme, ‘I am a Migrant’, Deputy Minister of Labour, Augustine Williams spoke of the place of migration in each individual’s history. He also highlighted the shared duty each person and institution to safeguard migrant’s rights. He said, “This day must be observed across the world, we must stand with those who relocate when they are threatened. What we need to do as a global community to address these challenges must be resonated.”

Assistant Minister Anthony Fahnbulleh, speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, stressed the need to protect migrants and address the risks they faced in host societies by educating and influencing in addition to ensuring the appropriate laws are enforced. The Assistant Minister of Gender, invited the audience to stand up and take a pledge to champion the protection of migrants, particularly women and girls who are most vulnerable. She listed some of the risks faced by girls and women as they migrate such as sexual exploitation and abuse and underscored the obligation of government institutions to not only develop laws and policies but ensure they are implemented.

IOM’s Salvatore Sortino highlighted the critical position of migration in the current global agenda and in achieving sustainable development. While Ioli Kimyaci, UNHCR Deputy Representative spoke of the place of international migration in the world’s consciousness, with the lines between refugees and migrants increasingly blurred in 2015. She highlighted, “UNHCR and IOM share similar objectives in ensuring that persons uprooted from their homes for whatever reason are protected and have access to safe territories. The challenges and difficulties of international migration require enhanced cooperation and collective action among countries and regions”

In closing, Col. Yebleh, BIN Director of Migration Management painted a picture of global migration, highlighting the scale and varied reasons for movements in the different parts of the world, placing Liberia within this wider context. Ultimately, he stressed the need to protect migrant’s rights at all levels and the commitment of BIN to fine-tune relevant instruments such as the migration and nationality laws. Speaking on behalf of BIN, he said, “All our 176 border points are open to you and we will work to ensure protection, respect migrants rights and dignity in line with BIN law policies and regulation, regardless of age race sex or nationality”

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