Recently in a café I was involved in an argument on very many issues suddenly the discussion moved to migration. I was stunned when one Gentleman just barged in saying that he had tried severally to travel but an organization “aa no no how den calan sef if MOI, IMO.” He was struggling to place the letters in the right order, “den nor wan leh man move”. Man he continued “wan chase di temple, mi man aa wan runan”. Meaning he want to go on ‘Temple run’ this is the movement of youths both male and females and others through back channels or rather irregular routes for perceived greener pastures in Europe. An idea marketed to unsuspecting parents, community elders and individuals by traffickers whose ability to cajole, impress and dish out cash (sometimes) becomes too attractive to ignore. The traffickers are very good at creating imaginary success stories of individuals they have promoted sometimes showing pictures that help to confirm their concocted narratives.
I realised that this is one case of misinformation an opportuned environment to intervene. Here is one guy who apparently has little or no knowledge on the operation of the International Organisation of Migration. His view in a community like that was a good platform to dish out some very pertinent information geared to dispelling this circulated falsehood and misinformation that appears too common in such communities.
Initially I wanted to ask how? But on second thought realised that a question like that in such an environment will generate a tempered reaction. Knowing fully well that this is his territory with considerable clout over those present.
In such communities the notion of ‘everywhere and anywhere is better than here’ i.e. Sierra Leone is a sing-song amongst the youths and a belief. In circumstance like that one requires all the patience you can muster in order to easily detect their influencer. The influencer I observed was the gentleman who had previously made the comment and he, I also observed did nearly all the talking and the others listen in awe and admiration. The enthusiasm, and determination oozing out of his gesticulation, and body language was enough to advise me to wait and listen cautiously.
Patiently like a hyena tailing it prey I waited. In such environment were anything goes and there are no taboos on what goes down the throat or is sneezed or smoked patience becomes a virtue. I bade my time and waited until I realised that he had nothing much to say.
Then I started “bra aa don lisen” meaning I have listened to you carefully can I make my own contribution.
“bra shoot” . Firstly I said if you mean IOM it is not in it policy to stop you from migrating to anywhere you want to go .It can only advises you to do it RIGHT, REGULARLY, not IRREGULARLY and not “TEMPLE RUN”. The IOM I said was founded in 1951 following the end of the Second World War. This war I told them left in its wake, chaos displacement and a massive number of internally displaced people in Europe. It was then called the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the movement of Migrant from Europe-PICMME. From that beginning it has gone through an evolution of name changes landing in 1989 with IOM as the preferred name. PICMME at its inception in 1951, 1952 to the Intergovernmental Committee (ICEM) for European Migration, in 1980 ICM.
Before this I stated that it was a logistics agency for arranging transportation for nearly a million migrants during the 1950s, and as time progressed it realized that there is more to migration than transportation of war displaced persons. During those times it focus or mandate centered on helping European governments to identify resettlement countries for the estimated 11 million people uprooted by the war of 1939-1945With time it became involved in man-made and natural disasters such as – Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Chile 1973, the Vietnamese Boat People 1975, Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and Timor 1999, and the Asian tsunami and Pakistan earthquake of 2004/2005.
At this point the silence was deafening, and some asking bra “u na teacher?”
In Sierra LeoneIOM started operation in 2001 and since then it had worked closely with successive Governments to strengthen migration related issues; It activities over time has evolved, responding to the needs of the most vulnerable people in the country. Following the end of the civil war in 2002, ‘IOM supported humanitarian recovery efforts, provided technical assistance to the Government of Sierra Leone on the demobilization of former combatants, the repatriation of civilians, and the registration and resettlement of refugees to third countries. It also supported humanitarian recovery efforts, provided technical assistance to the Government of Sierra Leone on the demobilization of former combatants, the repatriation of civilians, and the registration and resettlement of refugees to third countries’.
With the outbreak of Ebola, IOM was at the forefront supporting global and government efforts to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus epidemic of 2014 – 2016. This was done through capacity building, institutional support to government health officials and humanitarian border management. Other areas of intervention in Sierra Leone include Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), counter-trafficking, diaspora engagement, migrant assistance and protection, and assisted voluntary return and reintegration.
Coming back to your statement earlier on IOM, I re emphasised is not in the business of campaigning against migration or telling people not to migrate. What it does is to tell you to do it the right way. In fact it is for migration when undertaking ‘Regular’. The key word here is ‘Regular’ migration. Migration I said is as old as humanity and as such nobody or institution will campaign against movement of people. The movement of people I stated is influenced by many factors. It can be religious, famine, civil strife, wars, economic and bad governance, etc. All of these has in many instances led to the movement of people to places they perceived to better than were they were.
So the view held by IOM is that if you want to migrate, migrate, but do it the right way because any other way is risky and demeaning to your humanity, human rights and dignity has a person. Avoid and avoid ‘Temple Run’, irregular migration. History I said is replete with many examples. famine the first that comes to mind is that in Ethiopia in 1984, but before that there was the potato blight famine in Ireland-1845-1849 this propelled the movement of people to the Americas. The Californian Gold rush of 1848-1855, mass movement of people towards California and what I call the Diamond Rush in Kono district/Sierra Leone; (that is if we decide to ignore the movement of the Israelite into Egypt).
All of these led to the influx of people from nearly all part of West Africa to settle in the district; or the flight of Europeans from the excesses of the Church in medieval times to the Americas. Looking around their faces I sensed there was some acceptability because the they asked ‘oos tem u dae cam’?-when are you coming back? I said in a week and promised that on that day I want a full house because I will tell you how IOM ‘dae benefit d’ youths.
The influencer then rose shouting ‘yes yes na di name dat, ‘ I..O..M, na di name dat, aa cachan well’ Adding aa beg please come again.