It is very ironic that the theme of this year’s International Youth Day is, “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward”.
The 2013 observance of International Youth Day, is to raise awareness of the opportunities and risks associated with youth migration. We must engage young people in discussions on their migration experiences.
Young people make up a significant share of the global number of international migrants.
In 2010, there were an estimated 27 million international young migrants. While migration can often offer valuable opportunities and contribute to the development of communities and society at large, it can also pose risks and lead to unacceptable situations, including discrimination and exploitation.
In Trinidad and Tobago, we must be careful that we do not lose our young people. Young people are attracted by what is out there in the world today. They are attracted by the bright lights abroad.
While a large number of our young people are encouraged by the global demands, we have another problem at our door steps.
That is youth involvement in criminal activity.
A section of our young population is attracted by gang activity. According to data from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, there are close to 100 gangs operating in the country.
Most of the members are young men, aged between 14 and 25. These young men look up to the gang leaders. They love the culture. They feel they are not wanted by either their parents or teachers. They feel
no one cares too much for them.
But what is the spin-off effect? They are being wiped out. Just look at the television news at nights, or read the daily newspapers. Our young men are being dealt a deadly blow because of their association
with gangs. Look at the police statistics – most of the victims of gangland activities are youths between 14 and 25. Look at the persons being taken to court in handcuffs. They are before the courts charged with offences
such as murder, robbery with aggravation, and kidnapping. They are also involved in the drug trade. The youths are everywhere in the criminal world.
Look at how mothers hold their stomachs and cry over the loss of their sons. These youths die for no reason. And while the theme for this year’s International Youth Day is “Youth Migration: Moving Development
Forward”, our youths are migrating to the great beyond.
We have to protect our youths before it is too late. We appeal to parents, teachers and the churches to assist, We must watch our young men grow. We must be proud of them when they graduate
to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers etc. We must not be lining up at mortuaries, funeral homes, or cemeteries.
By the time the 2014 International Youth Day comes around on August 12, 2014, we must see a change. We must ensure that our youths are not involved in criminal activity. We must ensure that
our young men are not killed by rival gangs or by the police. We must uplift them, and ensure that theme “Moving Development Forward” means that our youths are moving forward in the right direction.
(On 17 December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998) that August 12 be declared International Youth Day).
Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC, MP
Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago