‘We Must Integrate the Diaspora in Our Policies on Migration’

- Says President Sirleaf

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says Liberia’s experience throughout the long-protracted conflict, when the state could not meet the basic needs of the Liberian people, provided the opportunity for Liberians in the Diaspora to send millions of the United States dollars as remittances to sustain their families. Therefore, she said, “we must integrate the Diaspora in our policies on migration.”

She was speaking on Tuesday at the formal launch of the High-Level Panel on International Migration in the C. Cecil Dennis Jr. Auditorium at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia.

With Liberia’s example, President Sirleaf said remittances from Liberians in the Diaspora, which sustained families, allowed the state to somehow function without being able to provide services.

The war, she said, displaced more than 70 percent of the Liberian population in and across borders, “posing a different set of problems that took us many years to resolve. These are matters that concern our work and we must find policy directions to address them.”

President Sirleaf said migration has become a major issue that poses problems for every country in the world.

She recalled that about a week ago, some forty (40) young men and women died of thirst in the Sahara Desert, while trying to reach Europe and added that more than a thousand people have perished in the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of the year – while in many places in Europe, a mixture of migrants from diverse backgrounds have been living in the streets, under conditions that can best be described as inhumane.

She said there are aspects of the movement of people across countries and borders that can be looked at from various perspectives.

President Sirleaf referred to migration as an integral part of human history and observed that “If Africa is said to be the origin of humanity, we can rightly say that the movement of the people of Africa has populated the world, from an initial point somewhere in Kenya.”

She said Liberia is a nation founded by migration – when in the early 19th century, freed slaves from the Americas moved on these lands to start what has become the modern nation of Liberia, a country which attracted people from across the continent and beyond the oceans.

“Therefore, we are well placed to know both the positive and negative aspects of migration,” she said.

She highlighted the challenge where: “People risk their lives to escape their countries to enter another one; people waking up one day and deciding that they need to move to another land to find a better life; and sometimes they are chased out of their land and homes; and sometimes, it is just the human instinct to want to see what is on the other side.”

She said migrants bring with them experience, knowledge, and talents that benefit the host country; while refuting an unverifiable theory that states that migrants take jobs from locals on such a scale that it undermines their prosperity.

Earlier, Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, Interim Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, thanked President Sirleaf for the warm reception accorded him and other panelists since their arrival in Liberia. Dr. Hamdok said the panel would like to see African countries make significant contributions to addressing the problems of migration.

He said in many countries, there are problems associated with migrants that are concerns of states that often host them. Dr. Hamdok said it will not be in the right direction to mix migration with terrorism because according to him, the issue of migration is about seeking the transformation of one’s own economic conditions, while terrorism is a new phenomenon totally different from the purpose for which most Africans migrate to Europe and other places.

In separate remarks, Mr. Knut Vollebaek, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway; Ms. Almaz Negash, Founder, Africa Diaspora Network, California, USA; Foreign Minister Marjon Kamara; and Professor Mohammed Mohamedou, International History, Graduate, Geneva, Switzerland, called for concerted efforts to deal with migration.

11 COMMENTS

  1. A review of our government’s attitude toward the Diaspora, for example, dual citizenship, is a bold and forward looking step. But waves of death – defying – across – oceans “migrations” from poverty – ridden and conflict centered countries are mostly driven by failure of governance in the countries of origin.

    This is why EJS’s responsive and responsible leadership of ECOWAS which tilts the sub – regional body to integration, economic empowerment, and coordinated security arrangements excite many West African observers, including me. Because it would help to stymie the fear – induced impromptu save our souls (SOS) “migrations” aforementioned.

    More the all reason that handing the chairmanship of ECOWAS to a man apparently at odds with all the tribes in his country save his own, is at this moment not a well – thought out decision. Rotating the position could be politically correct, but an unnecessary formality. It should be earned if performance, and not ceremony is the goal.

    By the way, my concern is motivated by experience only. I attended the 1983 ECOWAS Heads of States’ meeting hosted by the father of the President of Togo at which Thomas Sankara’s oratory and unapologetic antics stole the show. However, two things left a bitter taste in my mouth: a) reaching agreements on the free movement of people without involving the affected countries’ security services (especially immigration, custom, and police) expected to implement the policy; and b) the jockeying and intrusion of the elder Eyadema in the business of every country which caused that meeting to end in a sour mood, to say the least.

    To end, It is my prayer that EJS would, after the hurly burly of electioneering Liberia is peaceably put to perfect rest, continue to identify with the progress of ECOWAS in some capacity. For instance, if European nations which dominated the world since the Middle Ages, and fought among themselves for almost seven centuries found joy in amagalmation into the EU, what about us? And for EJS, personally, this is unquestionably a legacy she can’t afford to lose. Sincerely, May God help her to guide ECOWAS in these crucial times. It is a redeeming imperative, if you ask me.

  2. The modus operandi of ECOWAS is not as those of the government’s of its member-states where policies are made by each leader to whom the ceremonial post of chairperson is rotated. So attributing ECOWAS current successes to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf or anyone who would have been chairperson at this time is misleading and flattering.

    Take for example her would be successor whom you say is at odds with all of the ethnic groups in his country; do you think he would change any of ECOWAS current policies? No! He will simply sit ceremonially as has been the case with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as ECOWAS BUREAUCRATS implement those policies formulated by the member-states. PERIOD!

  3. That’s exactly the point. EJS didn’t “simply sit ceremonially”, rather she was an activist Chairperson familiar with the visions of ECOWAS and had the charisma, capacity, and connections to help the organization in achieving them.

    Not to mention that the belief that the quality of the leader of a regional body such as ECOWAS doesn’t have impact on its performance and success is mistaken. For instance, even the UN is more proactive in tackling its myriad challenges when an empathetic, hands – on, and farsighted Secretary General is at the helm. (A good example was Koffi Annan).

    And isn’t it ironical that we would attribute successes of such organizations to bureaucrats, but, under the same breath, blame the leaderships for their failures?

    Regarding the implied suggestion that giving EJS her flowers in a role where she excelled amounts to “flattering” would need no debunking. Because, unquestionably, her international relations skills don’t require praise – singers, they scream so loudly for themselves that the echoes can be heard on the moon.

    Most importantly, I don’t detest her as a person to ignore the truth for the simple fact that it puts her in a “flattering” light. She is a public official and criticisms from members of the public go with the terrain. Hence, my quarrel is on domestic policy, and not international relations which happens to be her forte. Incidentally, Liberia’s next president, regardless of whosoever, won’t best her in overseeing the conduct of our foreign policy: And that speaks volumes!

  4. Madame President, this should have being a major policy of your government in an effort to fully both rehabilitate and reconcile Liberia. By coupling a fast sustaining national decentralization process of the 15 counties…. as to absolve their respective citizens, thus, solving and reversing our national urbanization trend for a well and evenly distributed sustained economic development for our nation.

  5. I agree. Gloria Musu Scott was one of those very against dual citizenship and influenced the referendum. We need to have a frank discussion and there has to be some caveats like they have in Ghana.

  6. Dr. Hamdok does not talk sense when he defines migration as a “transformation” of one’s economic conditions” with out specific situations. He ignores the fact that not everyone wants to leave his or her nation without a reason. Economic condition has never been the reason True Liberians leave and come home, since Liberians do have the natural resources to accommodate their assistance. Hamdok’s statement might be predicated upon the fact that, like most imperialist, white United Nations, and power politics of sanctions placed on the majority for the actions of few tyrants by the United Nations. As for this Liberian President, who is trying to pack-up and leave the Presidential seat, this is my first time hearing her talk something good; especially about her own heritage. Liberians not necessarily migrate to go look for money or wealth elsewhere. Wars, health conditions, investments and others may also been underlining and immediate reasons. Some conditions previously mentioned by this incumbent lady have caused migration too.
    Thanks in advance. Gone in silence. DO NOT REPLY.

  7. An anonymous philosopher once said, “We must drop the idea that change comes slowly. It does ordinarily- in part because we think it does. Today changes must come fast, and we must adjust our mental habits so that we can accept comfortably the idea of stopping one thing and beginning another overnight. We must discard the idea that past routine, past ways of doing things are probably the best ways. On the contrary, we must assume that there is probably a better way to do almost everything. We must stop assuming that a thing which has never been done before probably cannot be done at all.”

    It is indeed no doubt that the philosopher statement stated above is a clarion call for our African leaders to make relevant changes in their non-productive economic, political, and social systems which are the catalyst to the mass exodus of African migrants from the continent to seek better opportunities in more developed nations. As a result, many African migrants have risk their lives over treacherous terrain and dangerous seas just to seek better economic, political, educational and social benefits overseas.

    Madam President, I must admit that your call “We Must Integrate the Diaspora in Our Policies on Migration” is an epiphany that is long overdue. It is the right call for change, but it comes at the last hour of your presidency.

    Haven’t our African leaders take note of the countless deaths of African migrants fleeing war, poverty, and political persecution? What systems are these African leaders putting in place to stop this massive wave of migration that is a burden on the European Union and other Western countries?

    Domestically, our brothers and sisters that fled Liberia’s own conflict have sacrificed their time and labor in foreign land to support their families and friends by their remittances. Over the years, many have lived, married and started families in their adopted countries. Our 1986 revised constitution did not envision this wave of Liberian migration that led to massive brain-drain of its professionals and those who acquired subsequent knowledge abroad.

    When we talk about “the integration of migrant in the Diaspora”, why don’t we also focus on the cause and effect? Why don’t we remedy these problems that caused our citizens to forcibly leave Liberia and the constitutional barriers that prevent them from fully integrating into the Liberian society?

    There are major constraints in our Constitution that need to be changed to catch up with the reality of time: Namely, Liberia’s citizenship restricted to people of negro-descent; the denial of dual citizenship to Liberian, and the loss of Liberian citizenship. These are matters for Liberian constitutional scholars to debate to foster better diaspora integration.

    In conclusion, how do African Leaders prevent the waves of economic and political refugees that are leaving the shores of Africa? Political conflicts in Africa should not be settled by the barrel of the guns. African countries need to maximize their natural resources for the development of their people and country. Many African leaders have the audacity to circumvent their constitution, “by all means necessary” just to hold on to power. Suppressive regimes in Africa are contributing exponentially to the massive exodus of refugees from Africa. These are topics for African leaders to solve.

    Madam President, your international experience in dealing with world leaders from developed and developing countries gives you the insight on what it takes to bring Liberia on par with other African countries moving in the right economic trend: these are few: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda.

    I hope and pray that our next leader will follow the economic strategy of Singapore that went from the bottom of the economic ladder in 1965 to one of the most developed countries in Asia.

    Indeed, “We must drop the idea that change comes slowly. It does ordinarily- in part because we think it does.”

  8. This is an illuminatingly informative but presidentially valueless. The President should have initiated diaspora integration policies during her presidency. I strongly encourage, perhaps, if her vice president is running, to campaign on this(he tentatively already has my vote if he is running, if it aint broke no need to fix it, keep it moving) particularly reaching out to Liberians in the United States. It would be a good policy for Liberian government to support Liberian small business community with a commitment that they employ Liberian immigrants, foreign students, or Liberians needing job skills training for the Liberian sector. We need innovative diaspora agenda and program.

  9. It is absolutely true Madame president but it is you and other African leaders who failed policies and bad governance cause your citizens to tread indecisive journeys across other bothers to better themselves.Look at Liberia , for example where corruption has undermined the provision of basic social services and opportunities.”The cause and effect “scale has proven you also wrong, though you are right.

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