In the busy town of Teshie Nungua, located in the Eastern part of the Greater Accra region, an astute gentleman is making an impact in the area of migration management and also offering the youth an alternative to embarking on the dangerous perilous journey of irregular migration.
Ato Amoah after completion of secondary school in 1997 gained employment as a messenger instead of the sales position he applied for with a company in the hire purchase business which targeted workers on government payroll as their major clients.
Things did not really go as expected as the remuneration from the work could not afford to support himself and his siblings. Ato decided to seek better opportunities abroad by trekking through the Sahara Desert to Libya and crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. The journey he narrates is perilous with irregular migrants often being left stranded or even losing their lives.
Haven successfully made it to Europe he sojourned to Spain, Belgium, Holland, France and finally entered Great Britain via Calais and further to Kent on the other side of the English Channel. All these journeys he narrates were due to his irregular status with him always watching over his shoulders in the fear of apprehension by immigration officials. “The mental torture alone and the sleepless nights were very tormenting, but I had no opportunity to return home,” said Ato.
In England, he managed to stay underground for three and a half years undocumented but found himself working at high-security outfits through a recruitment agency he worked for, using other people’s identity. “All my earnings were going to people I used their documents to work and since my salary was channelled into their accounts, they chose what to give me. Where do I seek redress as I was an irregular migrant? The little I got was used to cover my utility bills and food with nothing to save,” narrates Ato.
Ato’s working adventure took him to work at Heathrow Terminal 5 airport construction at Hatton Cross and was unfortunately arrested and sent to a detention centre where he could not show proof of his legal stay in England. He looked at his options and opted for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme for detained migrants in the United Kingdom.
In 2007 he returned to Ghana through the AVRR programme and was supported through his reintegration which enabled him to find his feet. His family back in Ghana also played an integral part as they offered him the needed moral support, so he did not suffer stigmatization as a failure in life.
Based on his experience as an irregular migrant, he was motivated to establish Migrant Watch and Skilled Revolution Front (MWSRF), a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) to help educate people, especially the Ghanaian youth on the dangers of irregular migration and the opportunities in Ghana. He brought nothing to Ghana, but with dedication and foresight, he is actively engaged in construction activities and earning a decent income which enables him to support himself and his family.
MWSRF is also involved in the provision of vocational and technical skills training for interested youth to equip them to take advantage of the numerous opportunities in construction, auto mechanic engineering, fashion designing and farming just to mention a few.
The path has not always been easy, but MWSRF led by Ato Amoah as the CEO, has made great strides in training over 75 female domestic migrant workers and 47 male returnees’ youth in various vocations and has also successfully implemented sensitisation activities to reach over one million students scattered across the country. “Thanks to organizations like IOM, GIZ and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), MWSRF is able to support the Ghanaian youth and with additional support from other donors the sky will be our limit” narrates Ato.