On behalf of His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the Government and People of Sierra Leone, Dr Gibril Sesay urged the assembled nations to live up to commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey in Istanbul in May 2016, and the binding obligations of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. Relating to actions taken by Sierra Leone to meet its international obligations the Minister stated that in 2016, the Government of Sierra Leone ratified the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Those two key conventions aim at addressing the status of stateless persons and reducing the incidence of statelessness in Sierra Leone.
Following the ratification of these conventions, The Sierra Leone Government has taken steps to convene a consultative workshop on developing a National Action plan for the Prevention and eradication of statelessness in its entirety. A national steering committee on Statelessness has been established and the National Civil Registration Act was enacted last year. The National Civil Registration process provided for the registration of all citizens and residents of Sierra Leone, with the ultimate aim of issuing Identity Cards to all without exception.
“It is an honour to update this august body that the national registration exercise was completed in June this year and ID cards will be issued to those registered shortly”, the minister stated.
Dr Gibril went on to say that “…the registration exercise will help overcome some of the key challenges faced by stateless persons within our national borders. For instance, the lack of birth certificates or identification documents can deprive people from operating bank accounts, securing job opportunities and access to some basic social services. So, Sierra Leone believes that these actions are strategic initiatives geared toward the eradication of statelessness.”
The Minister of State explained that: “The triggers of refuge seeking and refugees are expanding beyond the original phenomenal war and political conflict that led to the founding of the UNHCR”. He asserted that “Very noticeable in this regard is that Displacements and refuge seeking now involve extreme weather events and climate change”. Dr. Sesay recalled that “in Sierra Leone, on 14 August, 2017, landslide and flooding disaster claimed the lives of over 500 of our compatriots and about 4,000 people left displaced. In many other lands, these extreme weather events and climate are creating climate refugees and displaced persons”. “The rise of xenophobic extremism, criminal networks along migrations routes and disregarding for international norms are transforming people who may be voluntary migrants on leaving their homes into refugees. They become refugees along the way, and sometimes out of the reach of the support systems of humanitarian organizations. Whilst war and political conflicts are still major drivers, these other phenomena are becoming major contributors that the world must recognize and shift its paradigms in order to be able to meet the humanitarian crises they engender.”
Sierra Leone’s Programme for refugees is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Commission for Social Action. The Commissioner, NaCSA, Mr. Ali Mansaray said “it’s great that Sierra Leone is being commended at the highest levels for its humanitarian interventions, and reiterated his commissions commitment to supporting vulnerable persons within Sierra Leone.”