Launching Ceremony of the National Awareness Raising Campaign on the “Dangers of Irregular Migration”
Speech of Head of IOM Egypt Office, Mr. Amr TAHA
At the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
19 September 2017
Your Excellency Amb. Gabr, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman, and dear colleagues
My name is Amr Taha, Head of Office of the UN Migration Agency (IOM) in Egypt, and I would like to welcome you to the launch event of the National Awareness Raising Campaign on the “Dangers of Illegal Migration”.
On behalf of IOM I would like to express our gratitude to the US Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development for their generous contribution for the development and roll-out of the campaign.
The campaign is a powerful tool at the hands of the Egyptian Government to prevent irregular migration especially of its youth and children and to inform society at large of the risks of irregular migration and of the positive alternatives at home.
The launch of the campaign reflects IOM’s longstanding and constructive cooperation with the Government of Egypt and the National Coordinating Committee on Preventing and Combatting Illegal Migration and Trafficking in Persons (NCCPIM&TIP), as represented by its chairperson H.E. Amb. Naela Gabr.
In 2015, IOM expertise supported the Committee in the development of a national awareness raising strategy and media assessment on irregular migration
The strategy sets the framework for the campaign, establishes communication objectives, the profile of target audiences, tailored communication messages as well as specific awareness raising products and activities.
Based on the strategy, IOM supported the branding and production of the campaign, including audio-visual materials and billboards, most notably with the Egyptian footballer Hazem Imam who is honouring us with his presence.
Traditional and social media outreach will disseminate the awareness raising products to maximize their reach and impact and to ensure that the right audiences are informed with targeted information.
Importantly, the campaign will be complemented by community outreach activities to inform of the risks of irregular migration and of positive alternatives in Egypt targeted to governorates with high emigration rates, as well as IOM’s own AWARE MIGRANTS campaign.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The campaign marks a milestone in Egyptian Government efforts to address irregular migration from North Africa towards Europe.
This comes at a time when irregular migration towards Europe continues in staggering numbers and in 2016 alone, over 360,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea according to European arrival data.
Maritime deaths in the Mediterranean have reached levels of a humanitarian emergency with over 5,079 deaths in 2016, reaffirming the Central Mediterranean position as the deadliest passage worldwide.
Egypt’s geographic position makes it an increasingly important departure point with an estimated 10% of irregular migrants having reached Italy from Egypt’s North Coast in 2016.
We should not forget, however, that the fatal journeys across the Mediterranean Sea are just one leg in long journeys fraught with risks.
The complex routes involve refugees and asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, smuggled and stranded migrants, as well as those seeking work and education or to join family members already abroad.
Among all categories of migrants, irregular child migration and unaccompanied migrant children are indeed a growing phenomenon, also in the context of Egypt.
NCCPIM&TIP under the leadership of H.E. Amb. Gabr and the Government of Egypt have made great strides to address irregular migration holistically.
Through the passing of Law 82/2016 on “Combating Illegal Migration & the Smuggling of Migrants“ Egypt has become the first country in the region to pass a specific counter-smuggling legislation, which decriminalizes migrants while proposing aggravated punishment for smugglers.
The Law provides a strong legal tool to advance the protection of migrants and allows for the judiciary to prosecute smugglers and bring them to justice.
In addition, Egypt passed the “National Strategy on Combating Illegal Migration” for 2016-2026 and its two-year dedicated Action Plan, which provide the cornerstone for the Government’s approach in addressing irregular migration holistically.
IOM is proud to have supported the development of both framework documents and stands ready to continue supporting their implementation through capacity building and technical assistance for Egyptian national agencies.
A holistic approach to irregular migration, however, will inevitably need to address the intrinsic human desire for a better life abroad, away from violence, poverty and lack of perspectives.
This is the underlying and undeniable reason why so many people embark on dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean each year.
Parallel to the national awareness raising campaign to effectively prevent irregular migration of Egyptian youth and children, the Egyptian Government and the international community must work together to provide real and positive alternatives in Egypt, and abroad.
IOM is in fact working with the Government of Egypt on such real and tangible alternatives in order to reduce irregular migration of Egyptian children and youth.
Only through these coordinated, comprehensive and complementary efforts we will be able to reduce the loss of life of all migrants while simultaneously contributing to development in Egypt and countries of destination alike.
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
IOM is committed to supporting Egypt in its efforts to maximize the benefits of migration for migrants, societies and states alike.
I look forward to continue forging IOM’s relationship with the Government of Egypt to maximize the benefits of migration for the Egypt and its society while minimizing its costs.