The Gambia

Irregular migration: the best alternatives for Gambians

Irregular migration: the best alternatives for Gambians

Ten alternatives to irregular migration for Gambians

Many Gambians now return from the backway to Europe, as it is both highly expensive and risky. There are new job and business opportunities in The Gambia. There are also several legal ways to travel to Europe that are cheaper and safer than the backway.

Young Gambians may consider the options for investing money at home as a way of building skills and improving one’s life conditions rather than risking everything on the backway. Here, you will learn about 10 alternatives to the backway for young Gambians looking for a better life. This may save you money, time and trouble, offering broader perspectives.

1. European Union Blue Card Work Visa Scheme

The European Union (EU) has a scheme to bring in talent from other countries such as The Gambia called the EU Blue Card Scheme. In 2016 the scheme was reviewed and while it still focuses on high-skilled migrants, the salary threshold has been lowered making it more accessible to potential migrants.

Blue cards are available to those who have specific expertise in an area such as information technology or academic research. This route has the advantage of ensuring migrants have a job secured in advance and are able to travel safely and legally.

2. Family reunification

If a direct family member has refugee status or legal permanent residency in a European country, it is possible that a spouse, parent or child might be able to join them. Family reunification is one of the main reasons for immigration into the EU.

Once admitted in a European country through family reunification, family members receive a residence permit and obtain access to education, employment and vocational training.

3. Resettlement

UNHCR defines resettlement as the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to another State that has agreed to admit them and ultimately grant them permanent settlement.

Those with a strong claim for asylum who need to leave The Gambia out of fear for their life or because of persecution can travel to the nearest safe country and apply with the United Nations to be resettled. Migrants who are offered resettlement, can fly to their destination country with the assurance of a residency permit. The UN resettled 125,800 refugees in 2016. Refugees may be resettled in the European Union.

4. Student visas

Those accepted into a European university who can pay the fees can apply for a student Schengen visa allowing them to study, travel and work (part-time). The student visa is not an immigrant visa. Every student from a country that requires a visa to enter European countries must obtain a student visa in order to follow studies there.

Tuition fees can be cheaper than irregular migration. A bachelor’s degree at the University of Amsterdam, for example, costs around 9,000 euros. Foreign students are allowed to work part-time to finance their studies.

Are you interested in studying in Europe? Check the Schengen student visa application requirements.

4. New opportunities in The Gambia

The change in government offers new and exciting opportunities for The Gambia and its people. It is an important moment in the country’s history and an exciting time to be in The Gambia to create change, build businesses and shape the economy.

The economy will not recover overnight, and it might take a few years to develop. But the fact that international businesses and governments have now chosen to invest in The Gambia is a positive indicator of future success. You may want to consider the following developments.

5. Get involved in the Gambian tourism industry

The Smiling Coast has always been popular with Western tourists who are more interested in returning to The Gambia as a result of the new government. There are opportunities for people to set up their own low cost small businesses in the tourism industry. For example, tourists often want local guides to show them around the towns and markets. As services are developed more tourists will come and the industry will grow.

6. The Gambia Youth Empowerment Project

In February 2017, the government launched a new programme to support job creation and entrepreneurship for Gambian youth, with the support of the International Trade Centre and other funders such as the EU.

The Gambia Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) offers skill building training to young entrepreneurs, invests in agricultural development and provides technical or vocational training for thousands of young people. The programme will also offer employment matching services to help youths find jobs.

Learn more about the programme from the CEO of the Gambia Youth Chamber of Commerce, Baboucarr Kebbeh and contact them via the YEP Gambia Facebook page.

7. Build your skills

The Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) provides training in a variety of sectors, including business, computer and information technology, construction, engineering, teaching and rural skills development.

Other public training centres include the Hotel School; the Gambia College (for agriculture), the Rural Skills Training Centre at Mansa Konko, the Julangel Skills Training Centre, the Kotu in-house Training Centre, the President’s Award Scheme Training Centre, the Gambia Telecommunications and Multimedia Institute; and the Management Development Institute.

Contact the training centres for more information through the links above.

8. Starting a business with micro-finance

There are several micro-finance institutions in The Gambia – such as GAWFA Finance Company Ltd., Reliance Finance Services, Indigenous Business Advisory Services and National Savings & Credit Association – that all offer loans to people wanting to set up businesses.

9. Foreign investment in The Gambia

The government launched its new plan to attract foreign investment, endorsed by the United Nations, at the end of 2017. The UN recognised how the Gambian service sector was improving, notably in the tourism, financial services and telecommunications sectors with the help of foreign investment. Foreign investment in The Gambia will help create more jobs for young people in the future.

10. Migrating in the ECOWAS region

It is safer, cheaper and legal for Gambians to go to countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region which includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.


For Gambians willing to move to Europe, there are 4 legal avenues to the EU:

  • The EU Blue Card Scheme for highly skilled foreigners
  • Family reunification with close family members
  • Resettlement in case of direct threat and persecution in The Gambia
  • Schengen student visa

For Gambians looking to invest in their future and improve their life conditions, there are new opportunities in The Gambia. Among them are these 5 options:

  • Starting a business in the growing tourism industry
  • The Gambia Youth Empowerment Project, which trains and supports young entrepreneurs
  • Studying in one of the several training centres of The Gambia
  • Starting a small business with support from micro-finance institutions
  • The new foreign investment plan that will participate in creating new jobs in the country

Finally, one may consider migrating to an ECOWAS country, as it may be easier to obtain a visa and there are many business and job opportunities in the region.

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