By Fanta L. Keita
MONROVIA, Oct.10 (LINA) – In an effort to discourage Liberians from engaging in irregular migration around the globe, Migrants As Messenger (MAM) has embarked on a nationwide community awareness campaign beginning with Montserrado County.
MAM is a group of Liberian migrants (returnees) who voluntarily share their stories through various platforms as a means of discouraging irregular migration through a 3-year project under the auspices of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Speaking in an interview with the Liberia News Agency (LINA), MAM Project Manager, Joseph Ki-zerbo, noted that the program will cover the entire country where information will be shared online, radio airwave and on ground.
« We will also work with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and media institutions in various counties, making sure that before the program elapses, the message will be taken across Liberia.
The MAM Project Manager stated that looking at the influx of irregular migrants who are taking risks on a daily basis in search of elevating their lives, makes his entity sad and as such, the IOM/Liberia chapter has designed the MAM project as a means of addressing the ill.
He noted that the MAM project, which begun in 2019 is expected to last for three years in an attempt to dissuade youth from involving in this dangerous journey.
« This is very disheartening, seeing youth who could have helped in the development of their country risking their lives in a deadly route. The future does not lie in other people’s countries but instead it lies in your own country, » he emphasized.
Ki-zerbo pointed out that they have just begun community awareness campaign in Monrovia where migrants (returnees) strive to deliver and share their experiences on the dangers of irregular migration, disclosing that they also shared face masks and flyers for COVID-19 prevention.
Interacting with community’ dwellers in West Point and New Kru Town, former Liberian migrants narrated their life threatening journeys in their quest for greener-pastures.
One of the former Liberian migrants identified as Sharon Logan, in her narration, discouraged Liberians from embarking on irregular migration to other parts of the world.
Sharon, 25, said she had no hope of obtaining college education upon her graduation from high school in 2014, on grounds that she had no financial support which made her literally vulnerable in accepting every offer that comes her way.
She disclosed that she never had the thought of leaving her motherland for any other country, but was persuaded by her uncle to adventure.
Sharon revealed that her uncle, who previously lived in China, returned to Liberia and promised to facilitate his niece’s (Sharon) travel to Egypt in order to help her acquire a job to earn money.
Accordingly, Sharon and her uncle struck a deal in order to get finance for the trip to Cairo in search of greener-pasture with the agreement that she would reimburse him in the near future.
Sharon lamented that accepting the “deal” from her uncle marked the beginning of her nightmare in Mali where she got stranded for six months before the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) rescued her.
She cited that the IOM facilitated her return to Liberia along with a friend whom she convinced to form part of the journey to the Northern part of Africa that was later unsuccessful.
Sharon asserted that her uncle, under the pretense of taking she and the friend to Egypt took them to Bamako, the capital of Mali via land borders through Guinea, and subsequently dashed them to his girlfriend in Bamako.
“We never knew about traveling so we were very happy at first. But as we stayed so long in Mali, it became very, very difficult to adjust; we had no money. We were stranded because the first plan was that we were going to take a plane to Accra, Ghana, and go to Egypt from there.
“My friend and I were deceived by my uncle. He traveled, leaving us with his girlfriend who was looking for money to feed us. He never called us when he left us in Mali. But let me say that the woman he left us with was a good woman; she didn’t treat us badly,” Sharon emphasized.
She admonished Liberians most especially youths to resist any offer of irregular migration, be it from relatives or friends, citing: “Many of us, young people think that our future is out there where we don’t even know. But I tell you that our future’s right here in our country when we make use of the little opportunities before us.”
Liberians are often found among other nationals in other African countries attempting to travel to other parts of the Continent or Europe where they believe they would have a better life despite the dangerous nature of the “irregular” and “unsafe” choice to migrate.
For instance, a few days ago, some 57 Liberians who voluntarily elected to return home from Niger and Algeria were yet, again, assisted by IOM to come back. They were received at the Roberts International Airport by the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) that should be concerned with their reintegration into the society which some of them have left for years.
Now, it’s important to point out that Migration in its plain nature is a phenomenon that dates back to centuries ago and can often be occasioned by many factors, including war, economic stagnation, politics, and unemployment.