IOM Celebrates Diversity in Trinidad & Tobago with Global Migration Film Festival

With the screening of the documentary “Lifted” (2019), the International Organization for Migration Port of Spain Office (IOM POS) hosted the Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF) on December 3rd, 2022, in recognition of International Migrants Day, which is celebrated both annually and globally on December 18th.  
The GMFF is hosted by IOM Offices in various countries from November 28th to December 18th, when it culminates on International Migrants Day. The United Nations General Assembly, taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed the 18th of December International Migrants Day.  
International Migrants Day is an opportunity to promote an informed and balanced conversation on migration and to share the stories, experiences, aspirations of migrants in their communities. This celebration also reminds us of our interdependence, our common humanity, and the unique contributions we collectively make to our shared communities.  
The film festival was held at Estate 101, Maraval and also focused on cultural integration as one way in which migrants can benefit society – in this case - specifically Venezuelan migrants and the interesting similarities and idiosyncrasies of Trinidad and Tobagonian and Venezuelan cultures.   

Two drummers from Neptune’s School of Arts perform during the cultural performance segment of the International Organization for Migration Global Migration Film Festival held Saturday at Trinidad and Tobago.
Two drummers from Neptune’s School of Arts perform during the cultural performance segment of the International Organization for Migration Global Migration Film Festival.

IOM Port of Spain Head of Office Jewel Ali brought opening remarks.  “It is believed that by seeing this film together in Trinidad and Tobago, we can all continue to positively influence how migrants are seen, support diversity, advance deeper and wider policy integration, as well as combat racism, xenophobia, and other elements of intolerance,” Ali said.

Also bringing remarks on the evening was US Embassy Political Officer John Miller. “Inclusion means to belong to a social and legal environment where people are welcomed, accepted, and connected to one another. This is why we’re here tonight. Community members come together in friendly, caring and authentic ways and have opportunities to participate in community life and ongoing evolution,” the US official said.

The film selected for the 2022 local edition was a Trinidad and Tobago documentary “Lifted” which was produced in 2019. Set against frank conversation about diversity in Trinidad and Tobago, the film follows a day in the lives of a refugee family as they journey to a Moko Jumbie (stilt-walking) class. Following the screening, a panel discussion was held. The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Michal Pawinski, Lecturer, Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies, St Augustine and comprised Kimoy Thomas-Williams, Acting Director of the Counter Trafficking Unit, Father Martin Sirju, Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Church of Trinidad and Tobago Grevic Alvarado, Journalist and Anya Ayoung-Chee, fashion designer/social entrepreneur. The topics included the importance of migration policy, the dangers of discrimination, the education of migrant children, and the power of culture to unite.  
Another highlight at the event was a presentation to Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews, Chief Immigration Officer with the Migrant Hero Award from the IOM POS, for her many dedicated years of positive work in the field of migration.  

The festival was made possible through the continued support of the United States Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), which has also been an esteemed source of funding for the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) since 2019. Donor conferences for the RMRP have been previously hosted by the Delegation of the European Union to Trinidad and Tobago and the High Commission of Canada. For RMRP 2023-2024, which will be co-hosted by the EU and Canada, the issue of integration will be given increased importance. The United Nations Network on Migration of Trinidad and Tobago (UNNM-TT) also provided financial support for the Film Festival. 

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