“Combat Illegal Migration, Human Trafficking”-Stakeholders -As Victims Launch NGO

MONROVIA – A call has been made for concerted efforts to be mounted against illegal migration and human trafficking in the country as measures of saving the lives and protecting the security and human dignity of young Liberians who are desperate to leave the country in search of greener pasture but ended up being duped, dumped and victimized abroad just as some victims of the ugly acts have launched a not for profit organization to create awareness and educate the public against the scourge.

The called was made yesterday, Thursday, August 25, 2022 in Monrovia  at the official launching of the Migrants as Messengers Association of Liberia(MAMAL) as a sustainability approach for continuous support towards creating awareness of irregular migration and human trafficking in Liberia and also introduce the association as a potential implementing partner to donors, international and national organizations with a mindset to establish future partnerships that will sustain safe migration awareness impact of the Migration as Messengers(MAM) project that IOM Liberia has been implementing since 2020.

Giving an overview of the MaM Project, Mr. Mohamed C. Diallo, IOM country coordinator in Liberia said the program started in 2019 as a response to the growing number of Liberians travelling abroad for greener pastures but getting shortchanged by unsuspecting agents who promised them better opportunities such as education, jobs leisure and other better life options but ended up duped and dumped , leaving them to go through hardship and exposed to a lot of social vices.

He said initially migration issues were focused in Senegal, Nigeria and Mali, but over time nationals from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia joined the fray from where some young people travelled out of ignorance and knowledge which for some time created acute humanitarian crisis and a huge challenge of tracing the victims and repatriating them to their countries of origin. He said the need for robust measures to combat the scourge led to the establishment of the project under the IOM sponsoring.

He said IOM has played a major part in the rehabilitation of those who either returned home on their own volition or repatriated through the IOM and other partners and the Migrant As Messengers was one of the best platforms through which IOM provided support to create awareness and assistance for the returnees .

Diallo, who said IOM has stopped funding the project,  however noted that it succeeded in making the project to be sustained by the beneficiaries through building their capacity in so many areas such as professional photography , video recording and editing, multimedia techniques, interview and story telling techniques, communication for development , etc.

He further said as part of the sustainability plan, IOM has done the legal registration of MAMAL with the government, rented an office space, provided visibility and capacity building and called on other partners to assist in providing whatever means for the realization of the objectives of the institution.

The President of the group, Richard Shasha while unveiling the platform of the institution said that the Migrants as Messengers Association of Liberia(MAMAL) is a volunteer led association birthed out of the Migrants as Messengers project implemented by IOM to promote peer to peer  education, general youth development and create national awareness on the dangers of irregular migration to support government efforts in educating the general public on safe migration alternatives and procedures while empowering possible migrants to make informed travel  decision.

He said with support from IOM, the project has trained 50 returned and reintegrated migrants of 37 males and 13 females, on digital content of creation, peer to peer community awareness approach, project management and sustainability approach of the Migrants as Messengers Association.

He appealed to donor agencies to identify with the entity in its efforts to provide a sustainable platform to combat illegal migration and human trafficking as well as undertaking projects that will rehabilitate the victims and restore their hope and dignity.

While officially launching the association, Niels Scott, the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Liberia said he was excited to be part of the project, narrating his own experience of how he came in close contact with horrible human tragedy in Libya as well as following the stories of how young people were trafficked from their home countries under false persuasion.

He said the UN as a global institution has over the years confronted several human problems, adding that illegal migration and human trafficking are some of the pressing challenges the world is faced with. He promised the assistance and cooperation of his office towards making MAMAL a viable entity so that it can realize its dreams.

The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Madam Whilemena Piso Saydee-Tarr  who spoke on behalf of the government said there is always an emotion attached to the stories of how people are being treated when they are either trafficked or deceived into travelling and abandoned abroad. She mentioned the story of the number of girls in Oman and in the United Arab Emirates who were subjected to untold and inhumane sufferings, some of whom were fortunate to have been brought back through the government.

She said her office is open to the association for partnership and collaboration as a way of alleviating some of the problems associated with the plight of the victims of the scam.

The Minister of Labor, Charles Gibson who also spoke at the occasion said that strong measures  by the government though the Ministry of Labor have been introduced to curtail menace, citing the court verdicts that have been secured against the perpetrators of the crimes with the jail sentences ranging between 20-25 years.

Both the Europe Union Head of Mission in Liberia Laurent Delahousse and the Chinese Ambassador to Liberia Ren Yisheng expressed serious concerns on the situation especially the plight of the victims of the illegal migration and human trafficking and said there should be regular channel  of travelling which should be known readily to the public, the need to work together by national and international actors as well as providing the means of capacity building as a way of steering the young people from seeking for greener pastures abroad that do not exist.

Also speaking at the program, a representative of the Orange Liberia Foundation pledged the support of her entity to provide free training opportunities both locally and internationally to build the capacity of the victims as a way of reabsorbing in the society as well as rehabilitating and providing employment opportunities.

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