A group of Americans, who traced their roots to Sierra Leone through DNA, touched down at the Lungi International Airport on Tuesday 23rd April 2019.
They were received with pomp and pageantry in a traditional Sierra Leonean style courtesy of the Government of Sierra Leone.
The group visited the immigration department to start the formalities of becoming Sierra Leoneans.
They were taken on a tour of Freetown and they visited the iconic Cotton tree where the first set of freed slaves (the Black Poors) that returned to Sierra Leone visited in May 1787.
It was a very emotional scene as the oldest woman in the group Prof. Wanda Cousar poured libations, offered prayers and made vows to support the country one way or another.
They are scheduled to meet with the President at some point during their stay for the declaration ceremony.
Over the years Sierra Leone has welcome groups of African Americans whose roots are from the country.
Ancestry DNA has enabled African Americans to trace back their roots in Africa and help them build relations with their ancestral land.
Prominent actor and philanthropist Isaiah Washington also found out through DNA analysis that his roots traced back to Sierra Leone where he has since contributed in local philanthropy.
In the island of Carriacou in the Caribbean nation of Grenada a group of people still identify with the Temne tribe of Sierra Leone.
They still call themselves “Temnes,” and they celebrate their heritage with a Temne song, dance, and drum routine handed down for centuries. Several times a year they proudly display these vestiges of their African past as part of a dramatic traditional performance called the “Big Drum Dance.”
The annual Africa Economic Conference is the continent’s leading forum fostering dialogue and knowledge exchange in the search for solutions to the development challenges of Africa
For millions of ordinary travellers, inter-African travel is still too often a nightmare. Be it border hassles, lack of road or air routes linking key cities, or the frustrations of being refused entry to a country because of visas, the end result is to curtail the free movement of people, viewed by the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) as one of the pillars of regional integration.
That freedom of movement is inextricably tied to the Bank’s vision to create the next global market in Africa. As the Africa Economic Conference opens in the Rwandan capital Kigali, the theme this year: Regional and Continental Integration for Africa’s development,” also aligns with another major Bank priority – placing infrastructure development at the centre of Africa’s regional integration efforts.
Host nation Rwanda has taken bold leadership steps to champion regional integration, announcing at the beginning of this year an entry visa on arrival for travelers from all African countries.
The third edition of the Bank’s Visa Openess Index, to be launched on day two of the meeting, will be an important opportunity to measure which countries are making improvements that support free movement of people across Africa.
“The Index has helped raise awareness and drive visa policy reforms across the continent to ease movement of people, unlocking opportunities for intra-African tourism, trade and investment. In so doing, the Bank is directly contributing to the objectives of the AU initiative for a Single African passport,” Gabriel Negatu, Bank Director General, East Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office said in his remarks during the opening plenary.
Speaking on behalf of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Hon. Claudine Uwera, Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning said the conference addressed a theme “close to our hearts.” “This conference is important to charting the way for inclusive integration…that would benefit all,” Uwera said.
“Governance will determine the development path for our countries,” Uwera added, noting the equally important role of political will and commitment from African leaders.
The annual Africa Economic Conference is the continent’s leading forum fostering dialogue and knowledge exchange in the search for solutions to the development challenges of Africa. It brings together leading academics, high ranking government representatives and development practitioners from across the globe.
AEC 2018 will highlight “transformative initiatives for accelerating progress in infrastructure integration that are inclusive and promote equity, including the removal of barriers for movement of people, goods, and services across borders.”
Other convening partners to the Conference, the United Nations Development Programme UNDP) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), commended Rwanda’s role as a front-runner for integration efforts in Africa and spoke on the urgent need to build on the momentum for an inclusive and equitable integration.
“The government of Rwanda is walking the talk and continues to set the pace,” Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Africa, said.
Also speaking at the plenary, Giovanie Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said while there were still major steps ahead, “we are moving in the right direction.”
Highlighting the Bank’s emphasis on research and knowledge management as important drivers of policy dialogue, good policy planning and implementation, participation this year’s AEC is being organized under the leadership of the Bank’s Research Department and Regional Integration Complex.
Sessions over the three-day meeting will examine the social, cultural and political frameworks for successful integration, building on the landmark signing this year of the Africa Free Trade Agreement the world’s potentially biggest free trade agreement, which aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments across Africa.
Participants will also look at the role of the private sector and civil society institutions.
Given the urgency of regional integration – “no longer a choice,” according to its organizers, this year’s meeting is a must attend for those interested in Africa’s Development agenda.
“Important pages of our continent’s development history are being written,” Uwera said. “Let’s take this opportunity to move the continent ahead.”
The 2018 Africa Economic Conference is taking place at the Marriot Hotel in Kigali, from 3-5 December.
Most newcomers will address skills shortages and gaps in the labour market
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen speaks during question period in the House of Commons. Hussen unveiled new immigration targets Wednesday. (Adrrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Canada will take in 40,000 more immigrants in 2021 than it plans to accept this year, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Wednesday.
The target for new arrivals in Canada will rise to 350,000, which is nearly one per cent of the country’s population.
The figures were announced Wednesday as part of government’s updated multi-year immigration levels plan, which covers the next three years. The target rises annually from 310,000 this year, counting all classes of new arrivals.
It’s also a question of gradual increase so our immigration system can be able to process these things.– Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen
The vast majority of these newcomers are coming under economic programs designed to address skills shortages and gaps in the labour market.
Hussen says economic immigration is badly needed in areas across the country that are short on workers and long on older residents.
‘Hunger for workers is huge’
“In certain regions the hunger for workers is huge,” he said. “This plan is making us very competitive in the global market. It enables us to continue to be competitive, it enables us to continue to present Canada as a welcoming country and to position us to continue to be (a leader) in skills attraction.”
Many immigration advocates and economic groups had called for bigger increases to Canada’s immigration numbers. The government’s own economic advisory council suggested admitting 450,000 people in a report in 2016.
Hussen says the Liberal government is taking a measured approach, keeping in mind the need to ensure newcomers have access to suitable settlement services.
“You need to be able to house them, you need to be able to settle them, you need to be able to provide integration services,” he said.
The Trudeau government did increase funding for settlement services by 30 per cent since taking office, but if the immigration levels plan were increased dramatically, this would require even further funding increases, Hussen added.
“It’s also a question of gradual increase so our immigration system can be able to process these things, communities can be able to absorb them and local immigration partnerships can do their work,” he said. “We can’t just go to 450,000 at once. You need to build up to that.”
Meanwhile, as the global number of displaced persons reached a record high 68.5 million last year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has called on countries around the world to do more to help those being pushed out of their homes by wars, violence and persecution.
Canada does plan to gradually increase the number of refugees it will accept under its humanitarian, family reunification and sponsorship programs from 43,000 to reach 51,700 by 2021.
Nevertheless, the lion’s share of the new admissions under Canada’s immigration levels plan — 72 per cent — will be allocated to economic programs in 2021.
Hussen says he acknowledges that more must be done to help refugees around the world, and says he fights every single day to increase the number of refugees Canada admits.
He also noted that Canada has “exported” its program allowing private citizens to sponsor refugees to several other countries that previously did not offer a program like that. The United Kingdom has implemented its own version of Canada’s program, with Ireland and Germany set to soon do the same.
Additional funding has also been earmarked to bring 1,000 vulnerable women and girl refugees to Canada over the next two years, Hussen said.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen joined Power & Politics Wednesday to discuss the Liberal government’s plan to boost annual immigration targets. Hussen also discusses the challenges of housing asylum seekers in Toronto. 12:25
On Friday 29 June 2018, the member states of the IOM, the United Nations Migration Agency, elected Portugal’s António Manuel de Carvalho Ferreira Vitorino as the International Organization for Migration’s next Director General.
Mr. Vitorino, 61 (DOB 12 January 1957), succeeds the United States’ William Lacy Swing, who is leaving IOM after serving two five-year terms as Director General. Mr. Vitorino’s directorship begins on 1 October 2018.
The latest IOM director general is a former European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs (1999-2004) and former Minister of the Presidency and National Defence (1995-1997). He has also enjoyed a distinguished career in Portugal as a lawyer as well as in electoral politics.
Mr. Vitorino was elected to Portugal’s Parliament in 1980. In 1983 he became Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs. He later served as Deputy Secretary for the Governor of Macau until 1989, when he returned to Lisbon to become a judge of the Constitutional Court, a term that ended in 1994. He subsequently served as Minister for National Defence and Deputy Prime Minister within the government of António Guterres, now the United Nations’ Secretary General.
From 1999 to 2004 António Vitorino served as the European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs. During his tenure, Mr. Vitorino participated in conversations that led to the drawing of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the Convention on the Future of Europe.
Since exiting politics in 2005, Mr. Vitorino has returned to law, serving as a partner with the firm of Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira & Associados.
Vitorino has been President of the think tank Notre Europe since June 2011 and for many years enjoyed an ongoing role as commentator for the leading Portuguese television channel RTP 1.
António Vitorino earned a degree from the University of Lisbon’s School of Law in 1981, as well as a Master’s Degree in Legal and Political Science. Mr.Vitorino has authored works on Constitutional Law, Political Science,
European Community Law, and was also a member of the Drafting Committee of the Portuguese White Book on Corporate Governance.
Established in 1951, International Organization for Migration has over 10,000 staff and over 400 offices in more than 150 countries. IOM is the UN Migration Agency and is the leading inter-governmental organisation in the field of migration. It is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society.
IOM works with its partners in the international community to assist in meeting operational challenges of migration, advance understanding of migration issues and to encourage social and economic development through migration while upholding the well-being and human rights of all migrants.
IOM provides services and advice to governments and migrants to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.
IOM was granted permanent observer status to the UN General Assembly in 1992. A cooperation agreement between IOM and the UN was signed in 1996. IOM joined the UN system as a related organization in September 2016, when the agreement outlined in GA res.70/296 (2016) was signed during the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants.
The United Kingdom is more than halfway towards meeting its commitment to resettle 20,000 people by 2020 through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), according to new figures revealed yesterday (22/10).
The latest quarterly Home Office immigration statistics show that 10,538 refugees have been resettled under the VPRS – one of the largest global resettlement programmes – since it began.
The VPRS is just one of the ways in which the UK is helping to resettle refugees. In 2017, a total of 6,212 people were resettled in the UK – a 19 per cent increase from 2016 – with 4,832 of these people coming through the VPRS. Some 539 people arrived under the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS), which will resettle up to 3,000 at-risk children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region by 2020. The latest figures take the total number of children that the UK has provided asylum or an alternative form of protection to since the start of 2010 to 28,000.
Earlier this week, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd visited a refugee camp in Lebanon, meeting families who have fled the war in Syria and speaking to officials from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who are working closely with the Home Office to resettle families to the UK.
“As a country we can be proud that we are over half way towards honouring our commitment of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees who have fled Syria by 2020 so they can rebuild their lives here in safety,” Rudd said. “Nearly half are children and more people are arriving every month.”
“This week I went to Lebanon to see for myself the human impact of the Syrian conflict and talk to refugees about the challenges they face. I met a family who is due to be resettled in the UK and heard first-hand how important the resettlement scheme is and how it helps individuals, who have fled danger and conflict, to rebuild their lives. We are welcoming and supporting some of the most vulnerable refugees and I am grateful to all of the local authorities, charities and other organizations that have made it possible,” the Home Secretary added.
The VPRS is a joint scheme between the Home Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The UK works closely with UNHCR; IOM, the UN Migration Agency; and partners on the VPRS to provide life-saving solutions for the refugees most in need of protection, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk.
“The UK has embarked on an impressive upscaling of the VPRS in a short period, setting in place structures to welcome highly vulnerable refugees and allowing them to gradually stand on their own feet again,” said UNHCR’s UK Representative Gonzalo Vargas Llosa.
“Collaboration between the central Government, local and devolved authorities and service providers has been commendable. I’ve been up and down the country meeting refugee families and local communities, and the strong support for this programme and refugee integration generally is something the UK should be proud of.”
IOM facilitates pre-departure health assessments, cultural orientation and travel for refugees going to the UK. IOM also supports national and local governments to develop integration programmes as part of a holistic migration management strategy.
“TheUK has achieved a significant milestone for the VPRS by resettling over half of the 20,000 committed to be resettled by 2020,”said IOM UK Chief of Mission Dipti Pardeshi. “The generosity and welcome shown by the UK government and the British people to those resettled is commendable.”
“Today, less than one per cent of refugees worldwide have been resettled and the need continues to be dire. Resettlement cannot be viewed as a one-off effort. Countries must step up to resettle more refugees and to view this as part of a holistic process to help vulnerable refugees rebuild their lives.”
The UK’s resettlement schemes are just some of the ways the Government is supporting vulnerable children and adults who have fled danger and conflict. The UK remains the second largest donor in humanitarian assistance and has pledged £2.46 billion in UK aid to Syria and the neighbouring countries, its largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.
“I cannot wait to move to the UK,” says 11-year-old Shahed. Most of her life has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria. Last week her family arrived at the IOM offices in Beirut, Lebanon for the final preparations to resettle to the UK.
A big smile stretches across her face. She understands that this is an opportunity for a new beginning for her family, and Shahed’s plans are already in full swing.
“I want to study and one day be able to teach Maths, Geography or Philosophy. I also want to help other people.”
Shahed and her family will resettle to the UK under the Voluntary Persons Resettlement Scheme that has provided an opportunity for over 10,000 refugees to rebuild their lives since 2015.
Since 2012, across Syria and the region, the UK has provided at least 26 million food rations, 9.8 million relief packages, 10.3 million medical consultations and 8.3 million vaccines.
Gambian refugees on a wooden boat. Thousands of Africans make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean each year hoping for a better life in Europe. Emma Farge/Reuters
Hardly a day goes by without a discussion on the migrants (including refugees) who have entered Europe in large numbers since 2015. Under the European Union Commission’s New Partnership Frameworklaunched in 2016, one of the major short-term objectives is to ‘increase the rate of returns to countries of origin’, and last week, the president of the EU Commission announced a ‘more effective EU policy on return’. That said, return is tricky. It is unclear how effective it is in deterring future migration. And it may even have detrimental effects on the countries of origin. Take the Gambia for example.
Disclosure statement: Franzisca Zanker receives funding from the state of Baden Wuerttemberg (Germany). This article is based on a study on the politics of migration governance in the Gambia including over 30 semi-structured interviews and a focus group with Gambian returnees from Libya. Fieldwork took place between May and June 2017 in the Greater Banjul area. For more info see: goo.gl/ZoK4G7
Gambia became a symbol for democratic change earlier this year when former dictator Yahya Jammeh was peacefully ousted through the ballot box. However, more than two decades of dictatorship have left their mark on this tiny country in West Africa. The new government led by Adama Barrow has its work cut out to rebuild the country.
A key element of return to the Gambia is the role that returnees can play once they are back and how well accepted they will be. Without a thriving labour market such reintegration will be challenging and at worst could lead to conflict among a group of frustrated young men.
Difficulty of reintegrating economically
The first challenge for returnees is that their chances of employment once they’re back in The Gambia remains slim. General unemploymentis at 29.8%, and for youth it is estimated to be 38.5%.
Efforts are being made to tackle the root causes of migration by creating jobs. For example, new development projects are being launched in the Gambia including a 13-million-dollar EU Emergency Trust Fund project. This is a good start, but the project has just been launched and will take time to implement. It has also been criticised for a lack of ownership, with the implementing agent, the International Trade Centre, based in Dakar.
But is the money being used wisely? Reintegrating also needs to be visible at a societal and political level.
Rumours that government ministers have signed repatriation agreements in return for development funds are rife. Even though the rumours have been consistently denied they point to the fact that economic redevelopment has been heavily politicised.
This doesn’t help individual migrants who still need viable opportunities to reestablish themselves. Otherwise there is little reason not to emigrate again. At worst the frustration of returnees could lead to conflict.
The potential for conflict
Large numbers of young men returning without prospects of employment could have security implications for the young democracy. Though voluntary returns will be prioritised, a considerable number of cases are likely to be involuntary.
The potentially explosive levels of frustration already hold true for returnees from Libya. Since March 2017, the International Organisation for Migration has sought to voluntarily return Gambians home from Libya. In August, it identified 1,979 Gambians living in Libya.
By September 2017, 1,119 Gambians had been returned. When a focus group of 15 were questioned in a recent study, they said that they returned because of the gravity of their situation in detention centres in Libya, and to a degree, by the hope that things would be different in the new Gambia.
But the returnees were increasingly frustrated. Firstly, they were angry at returning home empty-handed. When they agreed to return they were under the impression that they would get reintegration funds from the International Organisation for Migration. But only the most vulnerable returnees received any.
And returnees felt abandoned by the new government. Again, they were under the impression that government representatives would welcome them home in person and give them a chance to voice their concerns.
if this happens to continue, then we can do something crazy.
Slow and well-managed returns
Despite the political pressure for returns, European countries need to make sure they allow for a slow and well-managed process. This includes skills-training prior to return – and not just for refugees. This would allow a country like Gambia to create more employment opportunities in order to successfully reintegrate those who come back.
Those who have already returned need to be given a constructive and peaceful outlet for their grievances. Ultimately, to ensure successful repatriation returnees need to be represented politically so that they can have a stake in the future development of their country. In that way, the shame in returning home empty-handed might be easier to deal with. Otherwise, there will only be further (re)migration at a great humanitarian cost.