IOM's Leonard Doyle explains that by turning the Brexit catchphrase “Take Back Control” on its head in the run up to the forthcoming UN Summit on Refuges and Migrants on 19 September, IOM intends to demonstrate that the answer to the migration ‘crisis’ is indeed already a well managed process.
The Leavers won't tell you but those who have most successfully “Taken Back Control” of their lives are the very people who are on the move – refugees and migrants. ‘Dog whistle’ politics is an underhands way of using phrases that mean something anodyne to the general population but something quite sinister to targeted members of the electorate. This is something that bears repeating when populist politicians and the click-bait media are telling us we need to take control of immigration. In fact most migration around the world is legal and orderly and managed by nations states, often with IOM support and training. The same can be said for refugees where UNHCR and IOM so often partner.
I Am a Migrant is a platform where migrants share their migration experiences and stories in their own words. The initiative was launched to celebrate migrants, and to challenge the anti migrant stereotypes and hate speech in politics and society. Migrants from all over the world have shared their stories, including Ohene Aboagye, International Director at the Directorate for Integration and Diversity (IMDi).
"When I was eight years old, I decided to run away from home to earn money to pay for my own education. Having been born in Ejisu in Ashanti Region in Ghana to a very poor family, being the second of 12 siblings meant my family could not afford to send all of their children to school. They chose to educate my elder brother and I was to work with my father on his farm. I refused, as I wanted to go to school. For that, l was beaten repetitively for days and weeks. I failed to convince my parents to allow me to go to school and which is when I decided I needed to finance my own schooling.
I washed cars, sold various things on the street side of Kumasi and attended school at the same time. After my going through a very hard time, l completed my schooling and joined the Ghana Army. Then, I decided to leave. My destination was Oslo, Norway.
A new chapter of life began, full of uncertainty and the unknown. But then again, uncertainly and the unknown have been a part of my daily life. I learned uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. I found out that education was free in Norway and I felt that it was my biggest weapon to success.
Coming to Norway was a little like free-falling, I felt I was floating on restless waters but with a firm aim; to achieve what I was denied without knowing how!
My first impression when I arrived in Norway was like “love at first sight”. I was impressed to see how peaceful the country was, how people were living a normal life. They have schools for everyone, education is free, even university. I was amazed to see that parents give a lot of time to their children, taking them out into the wilderness and teaching them about the land and nature.
I am thankful to the Seventh Days Adventist Church, at the Tyrifjord SDA Church Senior High School in Hole near Hønefoss. They supported me with all I needed and made me feel at home. They guided me and helped me to overcome the initial culture-shock.
I only had a small bag with few clothes as I didn’t have much to bring with me from Ghana. However, what I brought with me was my determination to always see the glass half full.
I have been living in Norway for almost 33 years. What I miss from my country? I mostly miss my friends.
I have now achieved my dreams and have a great education from the University of Agder and University of Oslo. I have proudly worked with the elderly for years.
Norway has given me what my own parents denied me. I am privileged to be Norwegian and I am glad to be contributing to this beautiful country. My future would have been different if it had not been Norway. I am grateful to Norway and its people.
I came to Norway with only basic education from Ghana and I had to start my life from the scratch. Now, I am well established and living as one of the highly respectable migrants in Norway.”
Ohene Aboagye is a member of the Board of the Norwegian Health Authority for the Western Region and the International Director at the Directorate for Integration and Diversity (IMDi).
To read more stories like Ohene's, or to submit your own, please visit:
I Am a Migrant is a platform where migrants share their migration experiences and stories in their own words. The initiative was launched to celebrate migrants, and to challenge the anti migrant stereotypes and hate speech in politics and society. Migrants from all over the world have shared their stories, including Alfredo Zamudio, Director of the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue, who recalls how he came to Norway 40 years ago.
“I was at the local store early one morning in late 1973, when I saw an army car pull up to my house, carry a man into it and drive off. As it drove past me, I recognized that the man in the car was my father, my sole caregiver. However, as a child of 12, I could not fully comprehend what had just happened. I went back home, only to find that it had been turned upside down and my father was nowhere to be seen. I picked up my father’s shirt that was laying on the bed and smelled it and all of a sudden, my father’s absence sunk in. It was the saddest moment in my life.
Gathering my wits, I hitchhiked to the nearest city and stayed with some of my father’s friends. A month later, some of them were executed by the army. Everyone was terrified by the events that were unfolding in Chile.
Realizing I was endangering my father’s friends by staying with them, I decided to leave. Thus began a new chapter in my life –surviving on the streets, sleeping in river beds, in dirt, covering myself with sand. I even woke up once to find rats around me, but I was beyond caring and continued sleeping.
A few weeks later I found out that my father was still alive. He had been arrested, interrogated, beaten badly and sentenced to 11 years in prison. My father was not a political figure, but he witnessed the social injustice in Chile and wanted to be someone who would do the right thing.
After speaking to some friends, I figured out the procedure that would allow me to visit my father in prison. I had heard that cigarettes were useful gifts for prisoners, so I brought to my father, the cheapest cigarettes I could find.
During these visits, I lied to my father and told him that I was doing well. I didn’t want him to know the truth. I didn’t want him to know that most days I didn’t know when I would be eating next, that I had mental notes on which friends I had asked for food recently and which I hadn’t so I could plan accordingly, that once I even stole a hen to feed myself and that the longest I had gone without food was two weeks.
That was my life until a man named Roberto Kozak* came along. He saw the suffering of the thousands of political prisoners in Chile and negotiated an agreement with Augusto Pinochet, to allow the prisoners to leave if they were able to obtain visas to other countries.
My father showed me the letter he had received from the IOM [then known as ICEM] explaining the process through which we could leave the country. Suddenly there was hope.
IOM organized the logistics and made travel arrangements, including obtaining passports.
On 15 September 1976, sitting next to each other for the first time in three years, my father and I left Chile for Norway, with our newly issued passports that said ‘Valid Only for Exit’. As we flew over the beautiful Chilean mountain range, I was finally leaving behind a life of hunger, misery and solitude and my father was leaving behind imprisonment.
Our lives recovered gradually. In Chile, I had terrible nightmares and would wake up in tears, screaming and sweating. In Norway, I stopped stuttering within two days, and I knew that the reason was that I was finally at peace and not terrified anymore.
I ended up going to medical school and then went on to work on human rights issues, which is what I’ve been doing since 1982.
People often ask me what I have learned through all this.
I have learned to have the capacity to listen to people’s stories and that no matter how bad things are, you can always give people hope and change their lives.
This is what IOM and Roberto Kozak did for me, for my father and for thousands of Chileans – it gave us new lives.
For a long time the unfortunate events of my childhood defined me, but I have slowly come to accept that I’m much more than that. My experiences have made me perseverant and adaptable. It has changed the way that I look at things. I realized that we can recognize the humanity in ourselves and others, and that solidarity through small gestures such as the offer of a sandwich or a place to sleep can make a huge difference.
My experiences have also empowered me to create similar opportunities and moments of hope for other people.”
To read more stories like Alfredo's, or to submit your own, please visit:
Geneva 13 April 2016, For Immediate Release
An internal IOM review into the Deloitte report on the IRRANA programme commissioned by the government of Norway contains a number of findings which differ from those in the report. Specifically the IOM review did not uncover or reveal any fraud or staff misconduct.
The headquarters-led team observed the operations in close detail and has come up with a number of practical recommendations which should significantly strengthen project management and internal controls going forward. These include ensuring an adequate segregation of duties between the cash-handlers, procurers of services and other key operational areas within the project team.
By ensuring duties are not concentrated with one particular individual or unit, the risk of fraud or error is minimized. This is an important control mechanism when payments are being made and resources distributed within the local economy. The improvements being made will also include key staff additions, increasing monitoring as well as an established complaints follow-up mechanism. IOM will carry out a follow-up audit later this year to ensure all improvements have been fully implemented.
IOM’s management team in Kabul has fully endorsed the recommendations of the headquarters-led review, highlighting the need to ensure the return programme is implemented with a high degree of operational control and monitoring. Laurence Hart, the IOM Chief of Mission in Kabul explained, “We are thankful to the government of Norway for prioritizing programme oversight, an essential attribute of any successful return programme. A well-managed return program is essential if we are to ensure the best possible conditions for the returnees, who deserve an opportunity to smoothly integrate in their home country after being absent for a lengthy period of time, and in some cases for many years.”
IOM applies the highest standards of internal controls in all of its programmes through internationally and locally recruited personnel who are subject to the organization’s extensive staff rules and regulations and code of conduct.
The IRRANA programme has been in operation for nine years. It has assisted 876 Afghan asylum seekers, Afghan irregular migrants and Afghan nationals with a refugee status and permanent residence permit, who wish to return from Norway to Afghanistan voluntarily. “For the individual success of reintegration in Afghanistan more efforts are required in preparing the returnee in advance with relevant information how the returnee can contribute to the development of the local community of return – that will be essential for a welcoming home”, said Joost van der Aalst, the IOM Chief of Mission in Oslo.
The programme provides a return and reintegration assistance to Afghanistan which is well-organized, humane and dignified. The situation they are returning to is often a fragile environment without much of a perspective for regular work. The IRRANA programme is designed to strengthen those vulnerable returnees in building a future in Afghanistan. Monitoring and follow-up is an important component of the programme that is conducted by IOM Afghanistan to ensure sustainability of the programme. Returnees are monitored 6-9 months after the arrival to Afghanistan.
As returns from Europe are likely to increase exponentially during 2016, IOM calls for a close dialogue between countries of destination and countries of origin to ensure sustainable return and reintegration.