By Ndey Sowe
The Gambia on Saturday, 18 December, 2021 commemorated the International Migrants Day which was observed by the United Nations Systems and the National Human Rights Commission in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in The Gambia.
The event which took place at Metzy Residence, was characterized by film screening and panel discussion aimed at reflecting on how to better protect migrant rights and harness their potential to contribute to development.
The national theme for this year’s commemoration is: “Change the Narrative on Migration Standup4migrants, Protect4migrants,” and the international theme is: “harnessing the potential of human mobility.”
According to the UN, 281 million people were international migrants in 2020, which makes around 3.6 percent of the global population.
On 18 December, 1990, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the international Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their families. The day aims to raise awareness about the challenges and difficulties of international migration.
Each year, on December 18, the United Nations through the UN-related agency, International Organization for Migration (IOM), uses the International Migrants’ Day to highlight the contribution made by the roughly 272 million migrants, including more than 41 million internally displaced persons and the challenges they face.
Isatou Njie Cham, Director of Communications for National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), who represented the chairperson of the aforesaid commission, said they recognised the fundamental human rights of migrants, adding many of whom move in search of better economic opportunities and more human rights friendly societies.
She thanked IOM, UNODC, OHCHR and UNDP for their collaborative efforts in providing alternative opportunities for young Gambians and advocacy against dangerous migration.
Fumiko Nagano, IOM Chief of Mission, said in the Gambia, migration is a huge topic affecting almost everyone.
“Migrants around the globe have been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, for example in the Gambia, there have been Gambian migrants who put their skills to task when there was supply gap in the production of PPEs,” IOM Chief of Mission added.
IOM Chief of Mission said it is therefore important to celebrate the stories, experiences, and contributions of migrants worldwide as well as reinforce a human rights-based approach to governing migration and highlight the importance of cooperation between government, civil society, youth, the media, and development partners to ensure migration is safe, orderly and dignified.
“In these past decades, the number of migratory movements have continued to grow and the celebration of this international migrant’s day seems timelier than ever. In 2020, approximately 281 million people in the world were international migrants, representing 3.6 percent of the global population,” said Dr. Desta Tiruneh, WHO Representative, who spoke on behalf of the UN The Gambia Residence Coordinator.
Dr. Tiruneh added that for The Gambia, safe migration and the protection of migrants is of direct concern, considering the country is increasingly becoming a country of transit and migrations.
“I believe it is imperative to take part and contribute towards the promotion and protection of migrants rights in the country and the globe in general,” said Mariama Sowe, President Law Students Association of the University of the Gambia
She added that this can be achieved through sensitization programs, symposiums, moot court competitions amongst others.
She remarked: “It is our collective responsibility to uphold the laws that are meant to protect migrants and see that their dignity is restored.”