By Omar Bah
The UN international organisation for migration, IOM, has yesterday commenced a four days training workshop on the protection of vulnerable migrants (policy and practice in identifying, screening and providing assistance).
The project ”Protecting Vulnerable Migrants in West and Central Africa ” is a regional project funded by the department of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the Department of State of the Government of the United States of America.
The Gambia will benefit from 6 capacity-building activities of government actors, civil society and the media.
The training brings together 30 participants from Women’s Bureau, NAATIP, Department of Social Welfare, Immigration Department, and Ministry of Justice, Child Fund, Child Protection Alliance, FAWEGAM and EFA Network.
Participants will discuss on the national child protection strategy, systems of refuge protection and trafficking in person among host of others.
Trainers at the workshop include experts from IOM Regional Office in Dakar, UNICEF Gambia, UNHCR, and OHCHR.
In her opening remarks, IOM chief of mission in the Gambia, Fumiko Nagano, said given the fact that West and Central Africa regions have a long history of intra and extra-regional migration, the training represent an important forum of learning and sharing for the multi-sectorial partnership initiatives.
She said with a rapidly growing population, a high percentage of young people under the age of 35 and socio- economic challenges, Gambians are faced with a powerful incentive for migration.
“Along the migratory routes the vulnerability of migrants is increasing. Indeed, having left their traditional environment and lacking the protection normally provided by their communities, migrants often find themselves at the mercy of criminal networks that set up exploitation mechanisms in order to illegally profit from the most vulnerable,” she added.
She said from January to June IOM has assisted 1220 Gambians to return home and humanitarian voluntary returnees from January to March consisted of 700 and currently unaccompanied migrants children make-up to 10%.
She said to address this, IOM will continue to closely work with the government.
“The training is an opportunity for the Gambia to expand efforts to protect irregular migrants, who face a range of issues, including violations of their human and workplace rights, a lack of access to social and public services, and coercion and threats from human traffickers and human smugglers.”
Meanwhile, the director department of social welfare Fanta Bai Secka said the protection of the vulnerable migrants is the responsibility of state parties, “however is important that families and communities are also engage in this process to ensure systems are in place to protect the vulnerable migrants.”
“The government of the Gambia has put in place a social protection policy and a child protection plan of action and a strategic plan to address the issues of vulnerability especially the vulnerable children and person with disability,” she said.
She said the issue of migrants especially returnees cannot be addressed by one institution, “it should be a multi-institutional approach including health, education and also the protectionist.”
“The department of social welfare is very much committed to work with IOM to ensure families are well sensitized to ensure returnees, especially the most vulnerable among them are given the needed support and protection,” she said.
She said though it is challenging and shocking for some returnees especially when their families reject them, “the government is committed to addressing the issues of vulnerability.”