On Friday, 18th December 2015, Zambia joined the rest of the world in organizing a Candlelight Vigil to commemorate International Migrants Day.
The event, themed ‘Let the Light Shine’, was hosted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Lusaka and held in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Candlelight Vigil was organized to remember the challenges faced by migrants and refugees around the world, especially those who have tragically lost their lives in 2015 as a result of migration. The event was attended by the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Zambia, UNHCR, and other representatives from UN agencies, migrant and refugee associations, representatives from governments and embassies accredited to Zambia, and other international and local partners. The event was graced by the guest of honour, Dr. Chileshe Mulenga, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs.
According to IOM, there were over 5,086 deaths worldwide in 2015, out of which more than 3,770 lost their lives or were missing in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe. Currently there are more people on the move than at any other time in recorded history with migrants comprising some 1 billion of the 7 billion people in the world. Unfortunately, many of them have been forced to migrate.
Southern Africa is a region characterized by high mobility and is also a springboard often used as the staging ground for regular and irregular migration to Europe and the Americas. IOM estimates that at least 20,000 migrants travel through the Great Lakes and SADC regions to try to reach South Africa each year. In 2013, there were over four million migrants, excluding irregular migrants, in the Southern Africa region, of which 44 per cent were female and 20 per cent were under 18 years of age.
“We are in an unprecedented era, where we are experiencing simultaneous and complex humanitarian emergencies that are impacting on the migration scenario, and a worrying rise in discrimination, xenophobia, exclusion, and human rights violations of migrants throughout the world. This event is a symbol of our solidarity with migrants, refugees and their families and reminds us that migration is often the only sliver of light left for millions of people around the world,” said Abibatou Wane, IOM Zambia Chief of Mission.
Ms. Wane said the arguments in favour of the facilitation of human mobility are not only human rights-based, but also demographic, social and economic as the link between migration and development is much better understood and recognized today than it was previously. “It is hoped that these interventions will re-energize the international community in its search for more effective approaches to the governance of migration,’’said Ms. Wane.
In Zambia, the Government has demonstrated its commitment to address challenges related to migration by valuing the need to protect vulnerable people on the move, including victims of human trafficking. “I call upon Zambians to continue to observe and respect human rights, not only of Zambians, but of anybody found on Zambian soil,” said Dr. Chileshe Mulenga, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs.
Ahmed Abdirahman, a migrant from Somalia, hailed Zambians for their love and peace towards migrants. “We have realized that we are loved here because we are allowed to go to Zambian schools, hospitals and many places and this is an indication that Zambia is indeed a peaceful country,” he said.
As IOM Director General, Ambassador William Lacy Swing has stated, “Migration is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be managed.” IOM remains committed to supporting the achievement of outcomes that will shape the migration landscape to the benefit of governments, migrants, and their families to ensure that no one is left behind.