More than 3,500 Gambian migrants who were en route to Europe through Libya have voluntarily returned home between 2017 to 2018, according to the International Organization for Migration. These returns, facilitated by IOM athanks to the support of the EU and the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, came on the heels of media reports that Africans were being sold as slaves in the North African country.
In the Gambia, barely a day goes by without a discussion about migrant returnees, who now add up to the list of the 38 % jobless youths in the country. As the country with the highest number of migrants per capita reaching Europe, there is no doubt it is suffering from man power drain as a majority of these migrants are young people.
Amadou Baldeh is a migrant returnee. His only wish was to get to Europe and start a new life, but having been locked up and abused in Libya, he was left with no other choice, but to return. Amadou and his fellows escaped from prison and ran to IOM in Libya for assistance to return home. “Our boat capsized twice. The second time, we were caught and imprisoned. They demanded a ransom of 4,000 Dollars for our freedom,” he said.
Upon his return, Amadou did some unskilled freelance work to support his family. He later received in-kind support from IOM to open a shop along the busy street of Kanifing. He runs a restaurant, selling meals and snacks.
He noted: “This business is okay. I am trying my best and earning my living through this business.”
Even though his dream to enter Europe proved futile, he still houses an entrepreneurial mindset far from trauma and frustration. Amadou was misled into believing that life could only improve in Europe, but he experienced the tough reality when he travelled to Libya. The memories of his horrible moments in Libya are still fresh. He is however hopeful of a brighter future in The Gambia.
Like many other migrant returnees, Amadou shows no sign of delight for coming back home as he is fully aware that job prospects in the country remains very slim. But with the support of the EU, he is committed to make his business more vibrant and create wealth.
The Executive Director of the National Youth Council, Lamin Darboe said the voluntarily returns have been on the principle of their safety first. The council is still helping the migrants who are willing to voluntarily return home. Despite the growing number of unemployed youths in the country, Darboe maintained that there are many opportunities for young people to tap from.
The EU Trust Fund for Africa had already committed almost €38 million for The Gambia to tackle the root causes of irregular migration.
To help The Gambia continue its democratic transition and achieve sustainable and shared economic growth, a total of €1.45 billion were pledged by the International Conference for The Gambia in May 2018, co-chaired by The Gambia and the European Union.
Out of this amount, the EU has committed additional funding of €140 million until 2020, which adds to the €225 million mobilized since the beginning of the transition in 2017.
By Saikou Suwareh Jabai, Ebrima Darboe and Lamin W. Sanneh (The Stone Circle)
- Publication date
- 29 October 2018
- Region and Country
- The Gambia
- Improved migration management
- International Organization for Migration