Scores of youths Friday stormed Awoko demanding that we facilitate a meeting with President Ernest Bai Koroma for them.
They pleaded that they have been without jobs for sometime now and they want to be allowed the opportunity to go and work in North America so that they can improve their lives and the lives of their families.
Their spokesman Morlai Bangura explained that they usually search the internet for jobs and it was during one such search that they came across the recruitment company ESS which had recruited them through the Ministry of Labour under the then Minister Alpha Timbo to work in Iraq as security guards, catering staff and artisans.
Morlai said that through their correspondence over the internet the ESS and another recruiting agency KBR had after looking at their documents sent invitation letters for them to apply for US visa where they are expected to be given two weeks orientation before sending them out to work in North America.
Morlai explained that on Wednesday 5th March one of them went for visa interview at the American Embassy where he was allegedly told that the Minister of Labour Minkailu Mansaray had written a letter to say that they must not be given visas.
Morlai therefore pleaded that the Labour Minister should be urged to remove the so called instructions (letter) to the American consul so that they can be issued the visas
When contacted, the Public Affairs Officer of the US Embassy Dana Brandt stated that “the Minister of Labour has not contacted us (on any such issue) and we do not comment on individual visa applications.”
For his part the Minister of Labour Minkailu Mansaray said “I have never written a letter nor even called the American embassy” adding “My job is to cater for jobs for people so why should I stand in their way?” he asked.
He explained that the position he took on the issue was that the earlier government had somehow politicized the process so he wanted to now “institutionalise the process.”
The Labour Minister explained that his plan is to set up a Board with representatives from SLAJ, Human Rights groups, Civil Society, International Organisation for Migration, Women’s groups and the Inter-religious council (one Christian and one Muslim).
The mandate of the Board he said would be to (a) make sure it is nothing fraudulent (b) make sure that they have a good bargain for the people (c) link up with all Sierra Leone Missions abroad where these people will end up (d) and ensure that the conditions of service are good.
A good number of the youths were visibly disturbed with the developments and promised to carry out their own investigations. By Kelvin Lewis