JUBA, (Xinhua) -- South Sudan with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has kicked off meetings in Juba aimed at developing the country’s first ever comprehensive migration policy, the UN agency said on Friday.

IOM, which organized a three-day meeting which ended on Friday saw key government stakeholders set priorities to be addressed by the migration policy.

Tya Maskun, IOM South Sudan Head of Operations, said discussions centered on establishing correct facts and figures around migration in South Sudan, mixed migration, labor migration, and migration and development.

“Regular and irregular migrants contribute to the country’s economy, particularly through payments for business licenses and creating employment opportunities,” Maskun said in a statement.

She said the consultation marked the beginning of South Sudan’s journey towards establishing a legal framework, which should aim to protect and address migrants’ needs while harnessing the benefits they bring to the country.

According to Maskun, due to its status as a member of the East African Community, South Sudan is a party to the free movement protocol, an agreement that should be at the core of migration policy.

The IOM said the outcome of this week’s consultation will lead to another landmark step forward for the country which is a major transit country on the route to Northern Africa.

“We saw the need for South Sudan to come up with a migration policy when we realized that there were some legal loopholes. We need to close these gaps,” said Riaw Gatlier Gai, South Sudan’s Deputy Minister for Interior.

According to 2017 International Migration Report, South Sudan hosts about 845,000 migrants in 2017, the majority of whom are from the East and Horn of Africa and are often travelling irregularly.

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