The workshop brings together stakeholders from across the government, international development partners, and civil society and donor agencies. It was designed to build policy coherence in the area of labour migration by providing a platform for various stakeholders to discuss key issues to be covered by the proposed national labour migration policy. Among the issues the document captures include treatment of migrants and how to ensure they contribute to national development.
The Ecowas Commission and the European Union fund the workshop with technical support for the International Organisation for Migration, the International Labour Organisation, and the International Center for Migration Policy Development.
The Head of the European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone, Peter Versteeg, at the opening session reiterated the EU’s commitment to addressing the issues of migration. Mr Versteeg said that migration, although not as serious for Sierra Leone as it was for the Horn of Africa and northern African nations, was still important for the West African country and that the EU was keen to help it tackle emerging issues.
“The EU is keen to stimulate development in countries serving as sources of migration,” said Ambassador Versteeg, stressing that while Sierra Leone wasn’t a major source of migrants to EU, there were issues the EU was interested in which made it feel obliged to help.
He also said despite concerns about migration, if properly handled it could be a win-win situation for both source and host countries, which was what the policy would ensure. The validation workshop comes amid large scale unprecedented movement of both Asian and African labour migrants across the globe and also within the Sub-region of West Africa, using illegal channels. This trend of mass movement is estimated to have grown from “nearly 50 percent from 156 million in 1990 to 232 million in 2013.”
This increased figure is said to consist of three percent of the world population. The root cause of modern day exodus of migrants varies from continent to continent and regions to regions across the world, sometimes with commonalities.
“While ethnic and political conflicts have led to the displacement of a significant proportion of the world’s population, many people migrate for socio-economic reasons, such as work, marriage and education,” the concept note prepared for the workshop reads in part.
Mr Versteeg said the EU had committed 1.8 billion Euros to address the root causes of migration and enhances efficient delivery of labour structures in tune of creating opportunities in terms of jobs. He said in Sierra Leone they were working in collaboration with the Human Resources Management Office (HRMO) to structure the public sector and making sure that the labour force was in conformity with international standard.
“In November 2015 the Valletta summit brought together European and African States in an effort to strengthen corporation in the area of migration and address current challenges and opportunities. The Valletta summit built on existing corporation process between Europe Africa particularly on… migration, and the EU Africa dialogue on migration and mobility,” he said.
The EU representative went on to state that if issues of migration could be properly managed it would bring in economic benefits by transferring skills and remittances to family members in the home countries of migrants.
Marco Bordignon, representative of International Centre for Migration Policy Development, said the meeting of the stakeholder signified the beginning of the demand driven facility in the country. He said the ultimate objective was to provide technical assistance to the Sierra Leone government through the Ministry of Labour in enhancing its capacity to manage labour migration.
“The development of a labour migration policy, initiated by the Ministry of labour and Social Security, comes as a step forward as it will provide the framework for mainstreaming migration into development, taking into consideration the ECOWAS decisions and international conventions on the protection of migrants and their families,” Bordignon said
Mathew Theambo, Minister of Labour and Social Security, said: “migration is emerging as one of the most critical social and economic issues of this decade, and a labour migration policy will articulate State’s commitment to ensuring a labour migration process that adheres to the principles of good governance, right and responsibilities enshrined in international instruments and our national laws to advance opportunities for all men and women engaged in labour migration for decent and productive employment in condition of freedom, dignity, security and equity.”
The minister added that because migration issues had become prominent around the world with the horror associated with it, it needed to be addressed.
There have been allegation of mistreatment and sexual abuse of Sierra Leonean women who have gone to the Middle East as domestic workers and that government has not done enough to address their issues.
This, said (PS) James Tom Kamara, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, has forced government to place a ban on the exportation of labour force out of the country.
“Migration has in the recent past attracted media attention in Sierra Leone. The bone of contention had been allegations of alleged abuses meted out to the job seekers in foreign countries. The government has been inundated with complaints, and had to intervene by placing a moratorium on the labour export,” the PS said, adding: “it can be perceived negatively as contributing to brain drains of home country.”