IOM Ghana and partners observe International Migrants Day in Takoradi

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To commemorate International Migrants Day (IMD) on 18 December 2019, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) ran a series of events throughout the week in New Takoradi in collaboration with the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), and supported by the European Union (EU) and GIZ Ghana.

Thousands of people witnessed fun games, a participatory graffiti event, cultural displays, sharing of stories of returnees, conversations about safe and irregular migration, official speeches, and a youth seminar and concert by IOM Goodwill Ambassador Kofi Kinaata. This year’s activities were inspired by the global IMD theme of Social Cohesion.

Bringing together returnees and their community members, we showed that migrants and their communities indeed live, work, play, learn, create, and celebrate together.

Organised in collaboration with Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), and in the presence of Mr Charles Kobina, Special Assistant to the Western Regional Minister, the European Union Delegation in Ghana, as well as chiefs and religious leaders, the programme on 18 December targeted specifically the youth.

Takoradi-based graffiti artist Ian Kwakye ran a participatory graffiti session with both returnees and community members.

They came together to paint a colourful abstract mural on the community library in New Takoradi. The library, which is located beside the St. Peter’s Catholic Church and a school, sits atop a hill overlooking the entire fishing community, and will be a lasting reminder of social cohesion.

DCI Dr. Prosper Asima, Regional Commander of the GIS, Western Regional Command, stressed that migration is “a unifying force”: “Together, migrants and communities promote social and economic development. Social cohesion is therefore a continuing reality of migration.”

He confirmed GIS’s commitment to continue its awareness raising efforts on the benefits of safe migration and the dangers of irregular migration through its Migration Management Bureau (MMB) and Migration Information Centres (MIC).

In the run-up to IMD, GIS had organised a float involving 300 GIS officers and a free medical screening for some 500 participants in New Takoradi, sensitising the community on safe migration and IMD activities.

Returnees shared their stories in the hope that they will raise awareness, especially among the youth, not to risk their lives in order to find greener pastures elsewhere; to give hope to returnees that they too can reintegrate into their communities successfully; and to encourage communities to embrace returnees and not stigmatise against them, and help them re-establish themselves back home.

One young man named Pious recounted the harrowing time that he spent in Libya from 2015 to 2017. He lived there for two years before stepping on a landmine in Tripoli and losing his leg. Pious told his story as a cautionary tale to other youth who were contemplating travelling through Libya.

25 beneficiaries under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration received their certificates for graduating from the National Vocational Training Institute (NVTI).

24 young men and one woman completed technical training, such as how to operate heavy machinery, tailored to their education background amongst other skills such as financial literacy.

Kojo Wilmot, in a speech delivered on behalf of IOM Ghana Chief of Mission Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, reminded that a lot still needs to be done: “We need to work together to ensure that migration is a choice and not a necessity.

We need to ensure that we leave no one behind and that laws and policies are in place to guarantee that people have access to rights and basic services here in Ghana.

And we need to speak to, engage, and listen to our youth – they are creative, resourceful, strong, brave, and the future is theirs.”

The climax of the event was the appearance of IOM Goodwill Ambassador and rapper Kofi Kinaata. He passionately addressed the audience of over 5,000 people, reminding the youth that there are opportunities in Ghana which they should take advantage of.

He also performed his song “No Place Like Home”, which he had produced and released in 2018 for IOM’s campaign to sensitise the Ghanaian youth about the dangers of irregular migration.

Kofi Kinaata also initiated a seminar at the Takoradi Technical University, aimed at sensitising youth to employment opportunities within Ghana and connecting them to potential employers.

Some ten entrepreneurs spoke to over 2,000 students about empowerment, innovation and employability. Kofi Kinaata told the excited crowd that while he is using his lyrics to educate them, they should take the opportunity to learn from the business expertise of the present entrepreneurs.

He urged them that in 2020, the young adults should focus on acquiring assets in the Western Region, not losing their lives in the desert.

The week ended with a free ‘Made in Taadi’ concert by Kofi Kinaata and other artists including prominent dancehall artist Shatta Wale. Thousands of people attended the concert and heard Kofi Kinaata’s “No Place Like Home” song.

The 2019 IMD events in Takoradi were sponsored by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF); and the “Assistance to Ghanaian Returnees and Potential Migrants” project, supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through GIZ Ghana and its “Ghanaian-German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration”.

In parallel, in Accra, the IOM Ghana Chief of Mission Sylvia Lopez-Ekra gave a presentation to commemorate International Migrants Day together with UN and Government representatives, at the United Nations – Government of Ghana Joint Programming Consultations, which brought together 100 government stakeholders and UN Heads of Agencies.

IMD in Ghana was well covered by the media, with an article in the Daily Graphic, and features on several local radio stations and newspapers.

In an interview on GHOne’s main news bulletin IOM’s Daniel Tagoe spoke about what the UN Migration Agency is doing to support curbing irregular migration, the reintegration of returnees, the protection of migrants, the role of the state in the process, and where migrants can get relevant information on regular migration pathways.

In the same interview, a returnee from Libya shared her story about why she decided to leave Ghana, her experiences on the journey and the process of her reintegration.

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