Gambian youth return home and share experiences of irregular migration

In Gambian President Adama Barrow’s State of the Nation Address on 13 September 2018, he laid out of a plan by the government to create over 10,000 jobs in the next three years.

The nation is mainland Africa’s smallest country with a population of just over two million people. With 38 per cent of its youth unemployed, many are embarking on dangerous journeys across the continent and Mediterranean in search of a better future. It accounts for around one in 20 migrants arriving in Italy, the second largest diaspora in Europe per capita.  

Over the past year, nearly 4,000 Gambians have returned home from Libya, with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Some of the youth returning are now warning others on the perils of the journey, known locally as ‘the backway’.

“We share our experience and talk to the elders that do not support the youths through this backway. Many of them will not make it,” said Mustapha Sallah, a 27-year-old who spent over EUR 2,000 traveling on foot and on public buses to Libya, only to be detained in Tripoli for four months. Speaking to Equal Times, he said he was tortured and beaten in what he called the ‘prison’ in Libya. He eventually returned voluntarily in 2017 with support from IOM.

For young returnees like Sallah, access to the right information could have saved him the trip. Today, several initiatives in The Gambia are informing others about irregular migration and providing other employment opportunities. The Gambia Youth Empowerment Project is one of them, giving in-kind support of up to USD 1,000 for training and start-ups to youth.

Gam-MINDS foundation, a youth organisation promoting entrepreneurship, recently trained 50 youth on community entrepreneurship and pitching. “During our pitching competition, participants were given the chance the pitch their ideas before a panel of judges and the best 20 ideas will meet in our next session, when we will expose them to the best 10 ideas and then mentor them for a year, by giving them a sum of GMD 10,000 (approximately USD 200) as a startup,” Evou Lawrence Mendy, Secretary of the Foundation, said.

Gam-MINDS has engaged schools in more than eight communities in The Gambia so far on career mentoring and development.

TMP – 04/10/2018

Photo credit: TMP