Over 8,000 Gambian youth took the ‘backway’ to Europe since 2017

A joint migration study conducted by Action Aid International-The Gambia and Action Aid-Denmark entitled: ‘Back Way to Europe: How Can The Gambia Better Address Migration and Its Development Challenges has revealed that Gambians made up 8,681 of recorded arrivals to Europe by sea between January 2017 and March 2018.

Gambian Vice President, Ousainou Darboe, launched the migration report together with a six-year country strategy paper called ‘Building Resilience for Social Justice’ in September.

The report focuses young on people in The Gambia, thousands of whom are leaving the country to seek a better life in Europe by undertaking the perilous Mediterranean Sea journey.

Gambians comprised the fifth and third largest foreign nationality in Spain and Italy respectively.  By mid-2016, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) listed 26,570 Gambians in Europe as a ‘population of concern’ – a term used to described vulnerable people in the migration cycle, e.g. refugees and asylum seekers.

The Action Aid report notes that until recently Gambian migration was largely the result of repressive government policies and lack of political and civil rights. The report went on to express cautious optimism that the new political climate will bring with it  social and economic progress for all Gambians.

It was, however, noted that not all Gambian migration was the result of political repression and that even after the departure of the former  government, many young Gambians are still leaving the country.

“Throughout 2017, even after the fall of Jammeh’s repressive regime, Gambians have kept crossing the Mediterranean, albeit at a reduced rate; 7,669 Gambians arrived in Europe by sea from January to October 2017,” the study reveals.

Although it did not account for how many Gambians have died at sea, the report indicates that the central Mediterranean route, the route most often taken by the majority of Gambian migrants, is the deadliest of all crossing points, noting that over 5,000 migrants died crossing the sea to Europe in 2016 and nearly 3,000 have died in the first ten months of 2017.

 The report contains recommendations as to how the country can better address the root causes of migration and other development challenges.

The study suggested that unless and until The Gambia improves job prospects and agricultural livelihoods, which involves seriously addressing climate change, the migration flow from the country is likely to continue.

One recommendation is for the government to focus on agriculture where some 70% of Gambians earn their livelihoods while the governments of rich northern countries who have caused climate change should be doing much more to address it.

Vice President Ousainou Darboe said the report contains critical findings, which will have far reaching consequences on the country’s national development progress. He assured his government’s support towards the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report.   

TMP – 23/10/2018

Photo: Broken clandestine boats in Lampedusa harbor