By Aisha Tamba
The Gambia recently joined the rest of the world to celebrate International Migration Day.
Eighteen December has been set aside by the UN to observe the day.
The International Organisation for Migration, IOM, Banjul office, in partnership with The Gambia government observed the day in the form of a film festival.
The films shown highlighted the dangers migrants face in their various journeys, including young people leaving their countries to escape poverty and those migrants who didn’t find what they were looking for in Europe.
The day is also set aside to draw attention to the human rights of migrants and their contribution to societies.
The head of the UN system in The Gambia, Ade Mamonyane Lakoetje, said migration is a “big phenomenal” problem throughout the whole world.
“More people are migrating now than ever before in history. Out of a world population of 7 billion, over one billion are migrants, and 250 are national migrants while 760 are internal migrants worldwide.”
Lakoetje said over 21 million refugees are forced to migrate and seek internal protection abroad.
“There are millions of irregular migrants and most of them are young people,” she said.
According to her, the UN is also aware of the “tough challenges” The Gambia is facing in terms of both reintegrating “backway” returnees and tackling the menace of irregular migration.
Bully Dibba, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, said the issue of irregular migration and migrants remain “a big concern” for his ministry.
“We will continue to create avenues and believe in the ‘New Gambia’ which will provide hope for the young people,” he said.
Mr Dibba said everybody is affected by irregular migration, adding that “it is about time to start doing the work to create opportunities for the young.
“My ministry supports the Free African Movement which underpins that no African should be pointed as a refugee or as a foreigner in Africa. In Africa we are all one and the same. We challenge other Africans to be more open to their African brothers and sisters. Migration is a global challenge, which should be collectively addressed.
The Banjul IOM chief officer Fumika Nagano, said irregular migration can be tackled if all hands are on deck.
As the world commemorates international migration day, IOM is forging a close partnership with the government of The Gambia to address issues surrounding illegal migrants and meaningfully engage young people to better shape their lives.