A team from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations agency, met with Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael on Tuesday to address issues affecting migrants in Tobago.
According to the IOM website, the organisation was established in 1951 and "is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society."
The IOM delegation was led by Jewel Ali, head of office, IOM and included Tinestia Haynes, case co-ordinator; Zeke Beharry, project officer and Kandy Serrant, reporting and communications officer. BYisrael and Assistant Secretary Sonny Craig were joined by Jason Nancis, advisor to the secretary.
The discussions centred on IOM’s implementation of projets related to trafficking in persons: one that will provide mental health and psychosocial support to migrant victims and the other that will provide upgrades to safe spaces for migrants.
Ali and her team also shared other types of support provided by IOM, which include: direct assistance to migrants in communities (food and hygiene support etc); training with several frontline personnel on proper migrant victim care; technical support for government agencies to develop policies and legislation supporting migrants and provision of resources to community groups that execute projects which will help migrants.
Ali also expressed IOM’s commitment to send their project proposals for the Tobago House of Assembly’s input, so that areas of collaboration could be identified and that the necessary guidance could be given on the best use of the resources to benefit migrants residing in Tobago.
BYisrael expressed her gratitude for the visit and welcomed the type of support IOM can provide for the migrant population living in Tobago. “We need the help," she said. "We do have a migrant population in Tobago but I’m not sure the level of help they currently receive. This is definitely a great opportunity to improve that.”
BYisrael told Newsday she was unsure of the number of migrants currently in Tobago. Asked which nationality was the dominant group among migrants, she said, "I'm guessing, Venezuelans."
BYisrael said there is a need for more publicity about IOM and their services. “Before this meeting, I was not aware of all that IOM does and that may be the reason why we (THA) don’t reach out as frequently or at all. It may be worthwhile getting more persons/agencies to understand what IOM does and that can start the conversation for greater collaboration with projects."
Ali said that IOM is seeking to execute more projects in Tobago and requires input from the THA on the proposed projects. She said, “We need to improve our relations with the THA. We wish to be directed on how to approach these projects in Tobago and we need you to tell us anything that needs to be adjusted.”