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IOM and border communities celebrate International Migrants Day in Paga

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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has joined border communities from both Paga in the Kassena-Nankana West District and Namoo in the Bongo District to celebrate the 2023 edition of International Migrants Day at Paga. This year’s celebration, themed “Honouring the contributions of migrants and respecting their rights,” also had full participation from the Paga Command of the Ghana Immigration Service and the Paga Youth Movement.

The IOM, a forefront organization within the United Nations (UN), is mandated to promote humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. Mr. Kojo Wilmot, Immigration and Border Governance Officer with the Immigration and Border Governance Unit of IOM-Ghana, spoke at the celebration, explaining that the essence of the 2023 theme is to raise awareness on the issue of exploitation while highlighting the positive contribution of migrants to societies. He revealed that the International Migrants Day was set aside in 1990 by the UN General Assembly to commemorate the contribution and sacrifices of migrants worldwide, and the day has since been observed annually on December 18.

Mr. Wilmot emphasized that, as a migrant-focused organization, migrants remain the core of its interventions, and the organization will always do everything possible, including working with like-minded stakeholders, to manage migration for the benefit of all. The IOM was championing the year’s celebration under the banner, “Act Now, for a Better Tomorrow,” recognizing that migrants are often at the receiving end of attacks during issues in the border management space and in some host communities. However, he noted that migrants and their families have made valuable contributions to the development of communities over the years, deserving to be seen and treated like any other regular citizen.

The IOM Officer revealed that there were radio talks on a local FM Station to create awareness in the area about the significance of Migrants’ Day and the events in Paga to mark the celebrations. The activities included a two-day free health screening session and a friendly football match between the border management security personnel and the community dialogue platforms’ team, composed of members from Paga and Namoo.

While the health screening focused on high blood pressure tests, HIV, hepatitis B, glucose/sugar level tests, among others, to ensure that border community dwellers and security personnel were fit or directed on what to do with their health, the football game aimed to foster unity and socialization between the security and border communities, boosting social cohesion to enhance security at the country’s borders. This is particularly imperative owing to the violent extremist attacks recorded in neighboring Burkina Faso in recent times. “We are pushing for social cohesion, where the community and the border management agencies have a good relationship that they work together, with everyone given the opportunity to assist or contribute to the border management efforts of the country,” he stated.

According to Mr. Wilmot, the free health screening, in partnership with the district health directorate, targeted to serve some 300 patrons, while two sessions of focused group discussions were also held with stakeholders. One involved the IOM and the border management security team, and the other involved the Paga and Namoo community dialogue platform members and the IOM. It came to light during these discussions that the IOM has been assisting the various platforms in public sensitization of the “see something, say something” campaign and other community sensitization outreach on border security.

The Kassena-Nankana West District Chief Executive, Hon. Gerard Ataogye, who also addressed stakeholders at the event, expressed his joy at seeing efforts being rolled out by various stakeholders to safeguard the security at the country’s borders, like Paga, Bongo, and elsewhere. He noted that such efforts by the IOM, the border management security team, the Paga Youth Movement, and the community dialogue platforms are commendable as they fall directly in line with the Assembly’s implementation of the Gulf of Guinea Social Cohesion [SOCO] Project.

Hon. Ataogye charged stakeholders to continue fortifying the bond of cooperation and the sharing of timely and accurate information, as this is a vital ingredient in taming the infiltration of cross-border crimes. Meanwhile, he commended the IOM for a modern isolation health facility and an adjunct Water, Sanitation and Hygiene [WASH] block it constructed, furnished, and handed over to the Port Health Authorities at the Paga Border back in June 2023.

Aside from this, the IOM has also provided mechanized water supply systems and water pumps for some of the border communities to enable them to do all-year-round farming, giving community members a source of livelihood, which takes their minds off possible inducements by extremists or indulging in any obnoxious associations. In addition, drought-resistant seedlings were distributed to the farmers.

The planned friendly football match took place on Friday, December 15, to climax the activities. Kick-off time was around 16:30 GMT, and it was the Community Dialogue Platform team that netted the first goal at about 16:51 GMT, with the Border Management team pulling an equalizer just a few minutes into the second half, around 17:11 GMT. At full time, the two teams had a stalemate, and the whistle for a penalty shoot-out ended with the former carrying the day with five goals into the net of the latter, who only fell short by one. Trophies, medals, and other IOM souvenirs were subsequently presented to the participating teams, as well as match officials on the day.

Source: Peter Atowege, District Information Officer

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