statement of the rc, dr. babatunde ahonsi on the review of the implementation of the global compact on safe,orderly & regular migration

03 December, 2020

Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mrs. Nabeela Tunis,

Representatives from different Ministries, Departments and Agencies

Head of Office of International Organization for Migration, Dr. James Bagonza,

Colleagues from UN Agencies,

Civil Society Representatives,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor to join you today to review the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM).

On 10 December 2018, more than 150 countries, represented by Heads of Governments and senior officials met in Marrakech, Morocco at the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), which was endorsed by United Nations General Assembly[1], just nine days later on 19 December 2018.

The adoption and endorsement of the Global Compact marked the first time that UN Member States committed to a comprehensive, 360-degree vision of international migration, grounded on international law, and turns their international commitments into concrete actions to enhance international cooperation on all aspects of international migration.

In a world where 1 out of every 7 people on the planet is a migrant; where 1 out of every 10 migrants is under the age of 15; and, where as many as 258 million people are international migrants—the time has come for the world to regard migration as a phenomenon to be managed rather than wished away. Through this acknowledgement, we would be able to unlock the untapped potentials that a well-managed migration can bring to humankind.

Africa has recently been perceived as a continent on the move, with people escaping poverty, environmental disaster, or violent conflict. International migrants in Africa increased from 15 million in 2000 to 26.5 million in 2019, reflecting a 76 per cent increase.

The situation is not any different for Sierra Leone.  Seventy-five percent of the population is under the age of 35, and recent estimates suggest that between 8,000 and 10,000 young people annually embark on irregular migration, with over a quarter of those being trafficked.  This group includes children and women trafficked for forced labor and sex work. In 2019 alone, IOM Sierra Leone assisted to bring back 1,922 stranded migrants from North Africa, the Sahel, and the Middle East. These migrants share stories of kidnapping, detention, forced labour, physical and sexual abuse, being sold off and/or abandonment.  Many still suffer the psychological trauma.

However, every challenge represents an opportunity. Evidence-based research has demonstrated that international migration requires enhanced cooperation and collective action among nations. More than ever, multilateralism and collaboration need to be the driving force of policies being set. Notwithstanding the impact of COVID-19 on mobility globally, international migration has the potential to bring significant contribution to the economic growth and human development in Africa.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The adoption of the Global Compact on Migration, therefore, has opened a new chapter in the era of migrant protection. This has encouraged States to formulate migration-friendly policies that upholds the human rights of migrants while unleashing the latent economic benefits which sensible migration governance can engender.

I want to take this opportunity to commend the Government of Sierra Leone and partners for making significant strides towards the implementation of the Global Compact on Migration since its adoption in 2018. So far, some of the key achievements of the country include:

  • Dedicating a whole cluster (Cluster 6) to address Migration challenges in the National Medium-Term Development Plan (2019 – 2023);
  • Development of the National Migration Policy;
  • Development of the Labor Migration Policy;
  • The Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2005, currently under review by the Parliament to remove sentencing provisions that allow for a fine in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses;
  • Development of the National Action Plan to combat Trafficking in Persons (2020 – 2023);
  • Establishment of youth empowerment initiatives, vocational skills training and entrepreneurship programmes;
  • Conduct of nationwide awareness-raising programmes to reduce irregular migration, human trafficking and people smuggling;
  • Conduct of a Labor Migration Survey to produce a case study for Sierra Leone on labor migration trends, recruitment channels and migrant workers protection mechanisms;
  • Holding a Migration Governance dialogue with key stakeholders, using “whole of Government”, “whole of society” approaches, and;
  • Provision of protection and reintegration assistance to vulnerable migrant returnees.

These are great strides. Yet, despite these successes, some challenges remain. The Global Compact on Migration and its processes epitomize the commitment to finding solutions together. To make this happen, we need the whole of society approach.

In this regard, I would like to thank the Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for voluntarily accepting to undertake a review of the implementation of the GCM within the United Nations framework with participation of all relevant stakeholders.  Sierra Leone is among first African member states that have embraced a state-led approach to review the GCM implementation.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Indeed,  this consultative meeting is timely and provides  an opportunity for the Government as well as  stakeholders to take stock of the overall progress made with  implementation of the Global Compact on Migration; identify key challenges, opportunities, gaps and emerging issues, as well as promising practices and lessons learned. 

Moreover, I would like to thank the Government of Sierra Leone in providing the platform to the United Nations  Migration Agency – IOM and the UN development system – to assist in formulating good migration policies as well as regular provision of technical advice in migration governance and management. In the same vein, I would like to thank all our development and local partners for the very active role they have been playing to support the cause of migrants and migration management in Sierra Leone.

Thank you.

[1]  (General Assembly resolution 73/195)

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