Bamako - Migration issues have been the focus of news for years: migrant exploitation, deaths or shipwrecks in the Mediterranean make headlines for news. However, little space has been left for the positive aspect of this phenomenon. Many migrants migrate regularly, build success and contribute to the economic, social and cultural development of their host countries and countries of origin.
To promote this aspect of migration, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Mali, in partnership with the NGO Accountability Lab, organized the “Connect 223*” event on Friday 13 December at the Hôtel de l'Amitié in Bamako, the first event bringing together Malians to discuss migration issues. This pilot initiative was placed under the theme of “Migration: Same Aspiration, Different Stories” (Migration : même aspiration, différentes histoires, in French) and aimed to convey a positive image of migration.
During this event, eight participants from different backgrounds (private sector, public sector, sports, education, human rights advocacy) shared their experiences, inspirations, challenges and opportunities of regular migration through different topics: “Succeeding at Home”, “Migration and Sport”, “Migration and Voluntary Return to Their Country of Origin”, “Migration and Culture, the Role of Music in Migration”, “Mali as a Destination Country”, “Migration Policy in Mali”, and “International Migration”. “Today, the term migration is negatively connoted in current issues.
Through this event, we let different migrant profiles express themselves, reveal the multiple facets of migration and prove that it is not necessarily a choice of distress,” said Nènè Keïta, one of the participants. “Through this event, we want to show that in the 21st century, there are people who migrate by choice and based on potential opportunities to achieve their legitimate aspirations,” said Mr. Pascal Reyntjens, IOM Chief of Mission in Mali. “We promote social and economic development through regular migration while upholding migrants’ human dignity and well-being, regardless of their status,” he added. “Migration must not be a source of tension, and nor even a threat.
It should be a source of mutual enrichment for both host countries and countries of origin or transit countries,” said Amadou Koïta, Minister of Malians Abroad. Artist Ami Yèrèwolo came to perform his song “si je savais” on human trafficking to remind the audience of the dangers associated with irregular migration. This initiative is supported by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development through the project “Security, Support and Solutions along the Central Mediterranean Route” implemented by IOM in Mali.
*The name “Connect 223” was chosen to symbolize the cultural connection as well as the connection between different communities. It reads both French and English. 223: is the telephone code for Mali to reach relatives, friends, and family from a foreign country.