Facts and Figures
8.6 million
71,740 km sq
English (official), Krio, and various ethnic languages

Sierra Leone, grapples with complex migration dynamics. Historically, the country played a key role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Internal migration is more dominant, characterized by rural to urban migration due to spatial inequalities and search for better economic opportunities, with the western region (Freetown) as the most preferred destination due to the high level of urbanization.

Sierra Leone is a source, transit, and destination point. Emigration trends are influenced by quests for better economic opportunities, family reunification, and education. The United Kingdom, United States of America, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, and Nigeria are some of the top destination countries for emigrants. On the other hand, irregular migration is common in Sierra Leone with linked cases of human smuggling and trafficking, driven by poverty, with victims subjected to sexual exploitation and forced labor both domestically and abroad.

Most immigrants in Sierra Leone are of West African descent aided within regional frameworks of cooperation such as ECOWAS and the Manu River Union (MRU). Additionally, the British, Americans, Indians and Lebanese also form a significant percentage of immigrants.

In terms of forced migration, the country has been both a source, due a protracted civil war, as well as host for refugees mostly from Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire. The country has also witnessed internal displacement linked to conflicts and natural hazards.

IOM Sierra Leone, overseen by the West and Central Africa Regional Office, operates with a focus on executing country-specific programs aligned with the strategic priorities of the region. Since signing a cooperation agreement with the Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone in April 2001, IOM has actively engaged in diverse migration management and migration governance efforts in Sierra Leone. The Organization concentrates on various projects aimed at addressing migration needs, challenges and promoting sustainable development, with a broader objective of fostering safe, orderly, and well-managed migration in Sierra Leone. IOM Sierra Leone has been engaged in all aspects of migration development including but not limited to:

Migration Management:

In Sierra Leone, IOM supports migration management through several projects/activities:

1. Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR):

IOM offers Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) to stranded Sierra Leonean to their communities of origin. Support offered includes but not limited:

Onward transportation Food Medical support Accommodation NFIs Referrals for protection services (shelter) and MHPSS Entrepreneurship training Livelihood support Education Childcare support


3. Border Governance

IOM supports the Government of Sierra Leone to improve its border governance through the development of migration policies and strategies and the installation of vital border governance equipment at official crossing points. Some key achievements in this regard include:

a. In 2022, with support from IOM, the Government of Sierra Leone launched its National Migration Policy 2022. The policy contains a comprehensive framework to improve and enforce administrative and legislative procedures towards migration’s management in Sierra Leone. It also sets out several prescriptions on how to address migration governance in the country.

b. In 2023, IOM supported the deployment of the Migration Information and Data Analysis System (MIDAS), a user friendly and customizable Border Management Information System (BMIS) at a major crossing point with Liberia. This system allows trained border personnel to collect, store and analyze the information of travelers entering and exiting Sierra Leone in real time, thus creating a sound statistical basis for future migration policy planning.

4. Capacity Building

IOM supports capacity of the Government of Sierra Leone to manage all aspects of migration. This involves investing in building the capacity of local authorities, government agencies, and community leaders to manage migration-related challenges effectively. IOM intervention involves implementing, training programs, projects and supporting processes centered on areas such as state institutions, legal advice on migration policy, data collection and research on migrant issue, fostering national and regional partnerships and the production of migration me key capacity building initiatives are:

Strengthening the Capacity of the Government of Sierra Leone in Border Management Project 2022-2024. Human Mobility in the Context of Disasters, Climate Change, Environmental Degradation, and Disaster Risk Reduction Training (2022). Enhancing African Member States Personnel’s Capacities to Respond to and Mitigate the Spread of Covid-19 (ECRM-COVID-19) Training (2022).

Activities include awareness campaigns, victim assistance, and capacity building for law enforcement. For instance:

a. Counter Trafficking Task Force 2015 aimed at:

  • Increasing victims’ and potential victims’ access to information, protection, and justice mechanisms
  • Contributing to collecting more data and testimonies to assess the scope of human trafficking.
  • Training volunteers in identifying, referring, and providing immediate assistance to victims of trafficking.

Between December 2017 and January 2023, IOM has facilitated the return of 10,139 (80% M; 20% F) Sierra Leonean nationals. Some key achievements in AVRR in Sierra Leone include:

On 14th December 2022 and 24th November 2023, a delegation consisting of EU Ambassador, Irish Ambassador, the Ministers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW), Ministry of Youth Affairs, and the Chief Immigration Officer, Youth representative from the state house, joined IOM in the reception assistance of 256 Sierra Leoneans returned from Niger through charter flight movement. This was a step towards increasing the government involvement in the post-arrival process.

IOM implemented “green initiatives” engaging 720 returnees in beach cleaning/drainage cleaning (10 days) for over 5 months. Approx. 366 tonnes of debris were collected. IOM collaborated with the Freetown City Council (FCC), the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, National Tourist Board, the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency and the National Aids Secretariat. Consequently, these efforts were recognized during the Environmental Care Awards ceremony and IOM Sierra Leone received the Beach Preservation Organization of the Year 2023 award.

IOM in coordination MSW provided psychosocial counselling and vulnerability screening to over 300 returnees in 2023 in 2023.

335 dignity kits including non-food items were distributed to returnees upon arrival or during the psycho-social session.

5 female returnees were referred at no cost to National Youth Commission (NAYCOM) youth skills development training in non- traditional jobs including auto mechanic, electricity. Construction and carpentry for six months in 2023.

To establish a closer cooperation between IOM, government agencies and private institutions in matters of common interest, and desirous of further enhancing and strengthening such cooperations, IOM signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the following:

Ministry of Youth Affairs – Areas of cooperation in proving training and employment opportunities for returnees.

Sierra Leone Immigration Department – Areas of cooperation in migration and border management (Migrants profiling).

National Drug Law Enforcement Agency – Areas of cooperation in the control and prevention of abuse of narcotic drugs among returnees.

Aberdeen Women Center – Areas of cooperation in health care referrals of female returnees for ante- natal and post – natal care.


2. Counter- Human Trafficking:

IOM collaborates with the Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Social Welfare, Youth affairs. to combat human trafficking.


Crisis Response:

IOM plays a role in emergency response and preparedness, especially concerning displacement

caused by disasters due to natural hazards induced by climate change. This includes providing immediate assistance, shelter, and non-food items support to affected populations. This action point aims at preserving lives and mitigating the broad impacts of sudden change in migration pattern in the country. Key actions include:

Support for vulnerable communities:

IOM and the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) held Round Table Discussions on Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change Adaptation & Human Mobility in June 2022 to strengthen the capacity of the government and other stakeholders in addressing the mobility dimensions of environmental change and disaster. IOM and GoSL reviewed a Draft Assessment Report on the Integration of Human Mobility in Climate Change Adaptation & Disaster Risk Reduction in September 2022 to assess and strengthen the capacity of the government of Sierra Leone’s and disaster displacement readiness.  IOM support to the national Environment Protection Agency to conduct a scientific study on addressing coastal communities’ vulnerabilities to climate change in two Island communities of Plantain and Yelibuya.

2. Climate Action

IOM supports Sierra Leone to minimize, climate related displacement and facilitate regular migration pathways through the “Implementing Global Policies on Environmental Migration and Disaster Displacement in West Africa.” The project has four pillars which includes: Data and Evidence, Policy Dialogue, Community action and Communication. Some key activities are:

IOM engages in projects to assist communities affected by conflict, violence, or natural disasters such as the August 2017 mudslide / wet mass movement in Regent, Freetown. This involves providing shelter, livelihood support, and community reintegration programs. IOM Sierra Leone’s activities also cover conflict sensitivity, risk analysis, disaster risk reduction and resilience-building activities that provide support to the government and local communities to establish community-level resilience strategies. For instance:

  1. Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) Activity aims at:
    • Providing information to volunteers on hazards that exacerbate community vulnerability to disaster incidents.
    • Building capacities in preventing, mitigating, and responding to disaster incidents.
  2. Draining Cleaning Activity 2023, aimed at
    • Disaster risk management through drainage clearing in flooding prone communities.
    • Waste and disaster risk management awareness raising.


Migration Health:

IOM Sierra Leone assists the government in addressing global public pandemics, health-related aspects of migration, including providing health services to migrants and promoting community health awareness. Activities encompass healthcare access, disease prevention, and strengthening health systems. Some key activities are:

1. Ebola and COVID 19 Health Emergency Responses from 2015, which saw to

  • Nationwide program on Infection Prevention and Control training.
  • Established water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) surveillance systems at key points of entry (POE).
  • Community engagement on hygiene practices to break the chain of transmission.

2. IOM ACBC and IOM, SL conducted training on Standard Operating Procedures for Frontline Border Officials at points of entry (POE) in response to Covid-19 within the ECRM-COVID-19 project.


Data Collection and Research:

IOM SL engages in research and data collection to better understand migration trends and dynamics in Sierra Leone. Some key achievements are:

  1. Community Based Assessments as part of Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) activity aimed at identifying hazards, assessing the vulnerability and capacity profiles to inform strategy and action plans.
  2. Migration Governance indicators
  3. Sierra Leone Country Report.
International Cooperation and Partnership:

IOM Sierra Leone engages in international cooperation and partnerships to address migration challenges, as well as harnessing the potential of the Sierra Leonean diaspora.

Initiatives include skills development, job placement services, and fostering connections between the diaspora and local development projects. Some Key achievements are:

1. In 2020, IOM partnered with the Japanese Multinational Electronic Corporation, Panasonic to donate solar lamps to resettlement camps in Freetown.
In 2019 and 2021, IOM Sierra Leone through the project “Strengthening Health System Capacity, Preparedness and Resilience in Covid-19 Affected Points of Entry” collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Medical and Dental Association of Sierra Leone and the Afro-European Medical and Research Network (AEMRN), a network of health care professionals from Sierra Leone based in the diaspora, to provide free health care services to rural Sierra Leonean communities in, Moyamba and Karene districts, respectively.

- IOM Sierra Leone supported a mapping study of Sierra Leonean diaspora professionals in the United Kingdom. This study aimed at assessing the willingness of Sierra Leonean diaspora professionals to support the strengthening of the health care systems during health emergency situations and to participate in structured diaspora engagement programmes within Sierra Leone as their contribution to national development

Career Opportunities

Being a member of the IOM team requires the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity. As an international organization with a global mandate, IOM also aims to maintain an equitable geographical balance among its staff. As such, its recruitment efforts target, but are not necessarily limited to, nationals of its Member States. IOM is an equal opportunity employer and seeks committed professionals with a wide variety of skills in the field of migration. IOM staff work in multi-cultural environments, in which diversity and cultural sensitivity are valued.


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IOM Sierra Leone 18 a New Signal Hill Road Freetown iomfreetown@iom.int

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