Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – As a way of showing commitment to environmental sustainability and the reintegration of migrant returnees, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in recent past has launched the second phase of its beach clean-up campaign in Sierra Leone.
The initiative, which began in February, 2023, has gained momentum under the leadership of IOM Sierra Leone.
During the launching ceremony, George Emmanuel Tucker, the National Project Officer for IOM Sierra Leone, expressed his delight in seeing more than 60 returnees coming together to clean the country’s beautiful coastal stretch. According to him, the campaign has not only contributed to environmental preservation but also provided emergency livelihood opportunities for over 1,100 Sierra Leonean nationals who returned from countries like Niger.
“The three-month-long beach clean-up campaign in Freetown, has been a hope for the returnees who actively engaged in this community-driven effort,” he said.
In his statement, Mr. Christos Christodoulides, the head of the IOM in Sierra Leone, commended the migrant returnees for their significant contribution to tackling one of the country’s most pressing environmental issues – littering along the beach, branding them as “Ambassadors for Green Sierra Leone.”
Emphasizing the importance of waste management along the coastline and underscoring the critical role clean beaches play in promoting environmental viability and safe consumption of seafood, Mr. Christodoulides urged the returnees to help educate other Sierra Leoneans that irregular migration is not an option.
Elisa Tesselli, Programme Manager for Governance and Civil Society at the Delegation of the European Union to Sierra Leone, acknowledged the European Union’s support for the initiative. She expressed their commitment to being part of the solution for a cleaner and greener Sierra Leone and lauded the returnees for their role in supporting the government’s efforts. According to her, the programme is in continuation of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative (JI) on Migrant Protection and Reintegration, which ran from 2016-2022.
Welcoming the beach cleaning activity as part of the Migrant Protection Return and Reintegration Sub-Saharan Africa Project, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Madam Nabela Tunis, extended her gratitude to IOM, the EU, and the Government of Sierra Leone for their dedication to maintaining a clean beach, recognizing it as a key factor in Sierra Leone’s sustainable future.
At the event, Unisa Bangura, a representative from the National Drugs and Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), took the opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of drug abuse and cautioned returnees about the risks associated with harmful substances. He reminded them of the importance of staying clean and focused on building a prosperous Sierra Leone.
Notably, during the first phase of the campaign, 300 Sierra Leonean returnees dedicated themselves to cleaning the beach for the aforesaid time, leading to the removal of an astounding 70 tons of waste from the Lumley-Aberdeen beach, extending the campaign’s environmental benefits by preserving the marine life.
Some attendees of the event pointed out that this campaign does not only signifies a commitment to a cleaner environment but also to the integration of returnees into the Sierra Leonean community.
One of the returnees stated that “as migrant returnees, we have shown through our dedication to this initiative, the option of irregular migration is not the answer. There are countless opportunities for a sustainable and fulfilling life in Sierra Leone. With the continued support of organizations like IOM and the EU, it is true that in our nation, the future is indeed promising for us.” PSN/20/10/2023