For Bakary Sanyang, 27, a city driver in Banjul, a salary of D5000 per month can’t keep him in The Gambia. “I will go to Europe because in The Gambia everything thing is expensive. It is difficult for a family man to survive,” he said.
He argued: “There are no jobs in The Gambia so we have nothing to do here, we must go the ‘back way’. The jobs available to us cannot even earn us a decent living condition.”
The ‘back way’, is the name Gambians have chosen for would be illegal immigrants who travel to Europe or America through deserts and high seas, journeys, considered perilous – for the simple reason that many lives have been lost in an attempt to reach the west in search of greener pastures.
The government should have a greater focus on the youth and address unemployment, says Sanyang, adding: “Honestly, I will go the ‘back way’ if I have the chance and the money”.
On April 2, 2013, AJHFP, a Kanifing Municipality-based anti-illegal migration charity, embarked on sensitization tour of communities of Bakau, Sukuta, Serekunda and Banjul to tell people about the dangerous consequences of illegal migration, the “back way to Europe”.
Association of Joining Hands to Fight Poverty (AJHFP) director Yuspha Jaiteh said the tour aims to give chance to youths to speak their mind on illegal migration but also to help discourage it.
“The association has already written a project on the dangers of using the back way to Europe. It is obvious that many energetic Africans have lost their lives in this process,” Mr Jaiteh said.
After intensive research on the issue, I wrote a book on how to stop the youth from e
mbarking on perilous journeys on high seas and deserts. This book was written in 2009 in Arabic and Mandinka, now I want to translate it into English, he explained.
Jaiteh’s target is mainly youth who are engaged in some sorts of small-scale businesses, and usually gather money to travel to Europe by land and sea. Hence, he had a series of discussions on this topic with youths in areas like the Bakau fishing centre, Sukuta market, Brikama market, Serrekunda market and the Banjul market.
Can’t keep the jobless at home
“I do not think we will go to Europe illegally if we have employment opportunities in this country,” Sheikh Tijan Jobe, 29, a fish seller in Bakau said on Tuesday. “A good number of the youths in The Gambia are jobless, and it would be very difficult to stop them from embarking on dangerous journeys to Europe and American for better opportunities.”
Amadou Barrow, 26, a second hand cloth seller at Serrekunda market describes The Gambia as a nice country that lacks job opportunities.
“Even the few jobs available can’t get people out of poverty, and this (poverty) is forcing the youth to embark on such journeys,” Barrow said.
He added: “Going to Europe through the ‘back way’ is not what we want, but if you see your friends who use the same route building big houses for their parents, owning cars and businesses, you can’t stay here (in The Gambia) and die in abject poverty.”
Not ready to work
Matarr Sarr, 30, a shopkeeper in Brikama is of the view that “most Gambian youths are not ready to work”.
“Look, I started as a street vendor, selling used-clothes but now I have a shop,” Sarr said. “The problem with Gambian youths is that most of them feel shy to be seen by relatives and friends selling on the streets and when they go to Europe they take up similar low paying jobs because like me, they too, are not well educated.”
Rejected and discriminated against
For Musa Ceeasy, a native of Baddibou District, North Bank Region of The Gambia, he sees some sort of “discrimination” when people traveling to Europe through the ‘back way’ are labeled “illegal immigrants”.
“If you appl
y for a visa, you are rejected outright. And if you choose to go the back way, they say you an illegal immigrant and you are maltreated. I think that is not fair at all,” he told FPI. “The white people came to Africa to colonize us, through the back way, so I cannot see any wrong in us trying to reach Europe through the same route.”
Meanwhile, the Government of The Gambia is of the view that it has created an environment conducive for the youth to excel in employable jobs that involves skills enhancement. It often cites the establishment of the National Youth Service Scheme, National Enterprise Development Initiative, Gamjobs, Gambia Technical Training Institute among others.