Internal Affairs Ministry & Conscience International End Training on Statelessness

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Cross section of Participants at the training

By Sam Pratt

The Secretariat for Statelessness within the Ministry of Internal Affairs in collaboration with Conscience International, on 16 January 2020 ended a two-day training session for members and non-members of the National Steering Committee to deliberate on matters relating to Statelessness. Discussions during the two day training bordered on the Conventions Sierra Leone had acceded to and their domestication, the National Action Plan that has been drafted and the pathway to achieving the Five Commitments Sierra Leone made in the 2019 Excom.

The over 20 participants included representatives from the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Social Welfare, Immigration Department, the National Commission for Social Action, the Human Rights Commission, the Births and Deaths Office, Civil Society Organizations and the media.

The training took place at the Grassroots Gender Empowerment Movement (GGEM) Hall on John Street in Freetown.

Statelessness is the position an individual finds him/herself in which he/she is unable to produce proper documentations related to the citizenship of that country he/she has been domiciled nor for any other country. It may surprise readers to know that people are in this position and yet do not know until a situation arises that necessitates the tendering of documentation that speaks for his/her citizenship.

Consequently thereof, the Ministry of Internal Affairs which is the Secretariat for Statelessness in Sierra Leone thought it prudent to train the members and non-members of the National Steering Committee on matters related to Statelessness.

The representative of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Andrew Kamara, in his keynote address, enlightened that there is a global fight to end statelessness particularly in Sierra Leone and West Africa, a fight the country is fully committed to but lamented that the country is facing many social challenges to end statelessness by 2024.

According to Mr. Andrew Kamara, some of the reasons for statelessness are porous borders, laws/legislations, discrimination and migration, nomadic people, children born to migrants, lack of identification documents. He affirmed that Government has made considerable strides to eradicate statelessness by appointing a Focal Person, acceding to conventions and treaties, undertaken civil registration reforms, visited border areas to identify groups and persons threatened by statelessness and pledged to continue working with various stakeholders to end the menace further underscoring that children and migrants are the most vulnerable to become stateless people.

He continued that a ten-year campaign (2014-2024) has been launched to eradicate statelessness citing the 2015 ECOWAS Abidjan Declaration, that Sierra Leone adopted its National Plan in 2017, disclosing that possible areas for stateless people are Kambia in the North and Yenga in the East revealing that there are 750,000 stateless people in West Africa and 10 million in the world.

Other issues participants highlighted were that Sierra Leone does not have a Migration Policy,    that there is no statistics of stateless people in the country and that there is need for massive sensitization of the public on statelessness.

Lectures were delivered on the following topics, the Background to Statelessness in Sierra Leone, Concept of Statelessness Exercise, the Global Action Plan Exercise, Sierra Leone Nationality Law Exercise, the Abidjan Declaration Exercise, National Action Plan and National Commitment.

It is expected that participants will be Ambassadors of Statelessness by embarking on mass sensitization in the media, in town hall meetings as well as other forums as and when the need arises.

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