UTG-Debate Association holds Inter-tertiary Debate Championship

UTG-Debate Association holds Inter-tertiary Debate Championship

By Sulayman Waan

 The University of The Gambia Debate Association (UTG-DA) in partnership with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently organized Inter-Tertiary Debate Championship for tertiary institutions in The Gambia focusing on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.

 The debate held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba International Conference Centre was funded by UNODC under its PROMIS project. The Project is aimed at “Strengthening the capacities of West African states to develop a human rights-based response to smuggling of migrants and to effectively respond to human rights violations related to irregular migration (PROMIS. The project supported by the Government of the Netherlands and implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) jointly with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The theme for this year’s debate championship was ‘Multi-stakeholders approaches:  putting youth at the centre of the migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons discourse’ with the soul aim of involving the youth in the fight against human trafficking and smuggling of migrants in the Gambia.

Furthermore, it aimed to raise awareness on TIP and SOM in schools and vulnerable communities as well as the potential risks of falling a victim of trafficking or becoming an object of smuggling. The activity also aimed to engage government offices that have the potential to adopt mechanism that can expeditiously address some of the push factors leading youth to embark on the back way.

The debate championship provided high school and university students the platform to express themselves regarding societal issues that can potentially lead them to frustration; eventually, leading to a decision to take the back way; or becoming vulnerable and falling victims to human traffickers.

Speaking to the participants, Baboucarr Ismaila Joof, Minister of Trade and Regional Integration and Employment described the debate as important and timely given the increasing number of youth embarking on irregular migration to Europe, often resulting in several deaths.

“Trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants are global and widespread crimes that affect men, women and children in different ways. Although the two are sometimes linked, they are separate crimes that pose a serious threat to human rights, human security, development, and the rule of law,” he said.

He added: “Trafficking in person is a crime. It is a human rights abuse.” However, he said these crimes are lucrative to the organized criminal groups involved in the menace.

 Minister Joof further said due to the lucrative nature of trafficking in persons criminal groups will always employ all means to succeed. Therefore, he added there is a need for multisectoral partnership and multi-dimensional approach to combat the menace.

Concerning efforts to combat these criminal activities, he informed that the government has enacted a law that prevents, suppresses and punishes human traffickers, adding currently plans are underway to enact another law that will criminalise smuggling of migrants and punish culprits.

“The Anti-Smuggling Bill is already developed and the process of submitting it to cabinet for approval is underway,” he affirmed.

He further informed that the government has established an anti- trafficking agency called the National Agency against Trafficking in Person (NAATIP) with a mandate to investigate issues of trafficking in persons, initiate activities and promote strategies to combat trafficking.

“Combating trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants require formulation of policies that will guide people involved in the work of combating human trafficking and smuggling of migrants,” adding, “It also requires building capacity of everyone involved in countering human trafficking and smuggling including security officers, investigators, prosecutors and youth.”

The Employment Minister also said factors responsible for irregular migration are many but lack of economic opportunities is usually the factor behind it.

 The Gambia Government has developed a National Migration Policy (NMP) 2020-2030.

In this regard, he said through this policy the government aimed to reduce irregular migration through better border management as well as promotion of alternatives to irregular migration by increasing opportunities for young people through national employment initiatives.

He also noted that his Ministry has formulated a National Employment Policy and Action Plan (NEAP) 2022-2026. With this policy, he said the government targeted to create 150, 000 jobs by the end of 2026. Mr. Joof commended UNODC PROMIS project for sponsoring such a meaningful activity, where the youth as employed as Partners for change.

Emmanuel Daniel Joof, guest speaker from the National Human Rights Commission, said trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants is a gross violation of human rights, noting several youth had lost their lives along the sea and the Sahara Desert while travelling to Europe for greener pastures.

He said to combat human trafficking and smuggling migrants the government must empower the youth with the needed skills and knowledge to boost their job opportunities.

Mr. Alieu Jallow, representing the Ministry of Justice, stated that his Ministry was committed to ensuring that the necessary legal frame were in place criminalizing both human trafficking and smuggling of migrants stating that his Ministry has been supportive in the drafting of an anti-smuggling bill to criminalize migrant smuggling in the Gambia.

Ms. Amie Sohna, President of  UTG-Debate Association said the association  aimed to foster dialogue, exchange knowledge, and build partnerships among the governments, civil society organizations, academia, and youth.

Ms. Fatou Geo Barry, the National Project Officer for the PROMIS Project in the Gambia stated that Youth have the power to change their future. She stated that the PROMIS project will continue to engage and work with relevant government stakeholders and civil society to effectively prevent human trafficking and migrant smuggling amongst the young population. Many young people are leaving the country, and we need to educate everyone about the potential risks.” Furthermore, the Project is committed to continue supporting Government efforts in the fight against human trafficking and smuggling of migrants in The Gambia.

SW/COB/07/12/23

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