By Lamin Sanneh – #MMN Local Coordinator The Gambia – West Coast Region
According to a joint report by the government of the Gambia and the International Organization for Migration, The Gambia is a country of out-migration. That means that migration is one directional: people migrant out of The Gambia, but people do not migrant to The Gambia. The Gambia has around 2 million citizens and of those, about 140,000 Gambians live abroad. That means that 7% of Gambians have left The Gambia.
This is a major concern for the Gambia. The surge of young people risking their lives to reach Europe has serious implications, both on the lives of those risking the journey and on communities back home.
Irregular migration is a phenomenon that is often talked about in The Gambia, yet accurate information about irregular migration is often not available. Attempting to migrate irregularly across the Sahara and towards the Mediterranean is a perilous journey that can easily end tragically. So what makes people choose this option? Are they aware of all that can go wrong? Where did they find their information and did they fact-check it? Are they aware of options for success in The Gambia?
These are important questions to answer, and this is where the Migrant Media Network comes in.
#MMN – the Migrant Media Network is a project of the r0g_agency, a Berlin-based nonprofit. The project is funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
#MMN’s aim is to disseminate accurate, life-saving information about (ir)regular migration through social media and through community outreach programs, in order to help people make informed decisions about migration.
One way that #MMN does this is through a radio talk show. Radio plays a pivotal role in disseminating information to a larger audience. It is especially good at getting information to communities that are harder to reach in person due to distance and a poorly maintained network of roads.
#MMN Radio – The Gambia serves as a platform to discuss migration issues, in native languages, and in the specific context of The Gambia.
We hope you will listen in and share it with your friends and family!
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The Gambia is one of the migration hotspots along the West African coast and this trend continuous to grow. It serves as an origin, transit and destinations country. Accordingly, The Gambia has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy the dividends that accrue from migration. But it has also suffered from the challenges migration poses to origin, transit and destination countries. This blog highlights on the increasing migration trends in The Gambia with special focus on challenges and risks.The country is one of the smallest in West Africa, with a population of about 2.3million. It has a very youthful population, with about 60% under the age of 25. Majority of the population (70%) rely on rain-fed agriculture and cannot afford improved seeds and fertilizers. The percentage of people living on less than US$1.25 a day remained unchanged from 2010 to 2015 – at around 48%. The Gambia has a low literacy rate, at 52% of the working age population, posing challenges for future transformation.
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With a population of approximately 200,000,000 people, which is expected to double within the next 30 years, Nigeria continues to assert its primacy within the sphere of international politics, demographics and sovereignty. The most populous nation and biggest economy in Africa, the West African nation is a major player in the wave of heightened transnational movements sweeping through the globe. A 2018 study by Pew Research Centre identifies Nigeria as being a major source of immigrants to the EU. With over 400,000 Nigerian born immigrants living in the EU, Norway, and Switzerland, the country easily tops the chart of sub-Saharan immigrants in that region. Indeed, a study by the Washington-based Think tank – Pew Research Center – shows that 74% of Nigerians are seeking to leave the country, either passively or actively. Knowing exactly how many Nigerians explore irregular migration routes is difficult, as many end up in Libya and other North African countries undocumented, while some lose their lives in the dangerous journey through the Sahara and across the Mediterranean. Moreover, a significant number do not correctly declare their origin.
However, it is estimated that between 2014 and 2016, way over 50,000 Nigerians crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Another source shows that over 80,000 Nigerians arrived by sea in Italy from 2013 to 2018. Little wonder the EU listed Nigeria among the five priority countries where efforts to regulate irregular migration must be intensified. Even as thousands continue to depart Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries in search for an often-elusive promised land – Europe, the spotlight is beginning to shine more and more on the complexities of the journey, as well as the vicissitudes of removal, return and repatriation. Since 2017, thousands of irregular and undocumented immigrants have been returned to Nigeria from North Africa and Europe. Many of these returnees carry with them a burden of physical and psychological injuries. In addition to their scars and trauma is the burden of stigma, disorientation and poverty. #MMN will take these intricacies into effect in the structuring of social, educational and economic programs and systems for a multi-faceted approach to migration in Nigeria.
Interestingly, as Nigeria has been identified as a primary source of irregular migrants to Europe, it has been established that a huge percentage of these emigrants are from Edo State. Practically, there are already a number of NGOs working in the region, many of which are focused on providing support to returnees, while others mobilize returnees help sensitize communities on the realities of irregular migration. Many of these organizations and bodies are domiciled in Benin City, the capital of Edo state. Following a baseline study, #MMN Nigeria will potentially focus on peri-urban and rural communities close to Benin City. Targeting younger people in schools, churches, and networks, #MMN will use already produced and tested guides and kits, adapted to suit the local context to work with and alongside community members. We will equally identify partners and resource persons for collaboration and sharing of resources.
Ghana is located on the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa and occupies an area of about 92,099 sq. miles. It shares boarders to Togo (eastern side), Cote d’Ivoire (western side), and Burkina Faso (northern side). Ghana has just carried out its latest population and housing census last month. This is an exercise organised every ten years. The current estimated total population according to the United Nations World Population Dashboard ( https://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population-dashboardhttps://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population-dashboard) stands at 31.7 million with young people making for one third of the population and a growth rate of 2.0% per year.
Although Ghana is often cited as a rising star in Africa due to its major strides toward democracy under a multi-party system and a low middle-income country status due to national and regional economic reforms. There are however rising social and economic inequalities undermining transformational change and sustainable development as well as threatening social cohesion. These inequalities are pervasive and increasing particularly between men and women and the north and the south of the country.
Migration, specifically irregular migration out of Ghana is one of the biggest socio-economic challenges the country is faced with. Ghana has been a major migrant-producing country for several decades. About 3% of Ghana’s population have emigrated since 2014, mostly to Europe and America due to uneven development and development trajectory failing particularly the young people for perceived quality of life.
It is well documented that an estimated 1000s of migrants from Ghana enter into Europe through illegal sea crossings of the Central, Eastern and Western Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans. According to International Centre for Migration Policy Development (cited in EC, 2004), 50 % of migrants transiting through Agadez in Niger would be from Nigeria, 15 % from Niger, 10 % from Ghana. Ghanaian youth risk their lives to cross the Sahara-desert and the Mediterranean and Atlantic Seas for better life opportunities in Europe. By so doing they expose themselves to this deadly and dangerous journey.
Although recent evidence shows that the number of Ghanaian nationals in irregular situations in the EU has remained stable since 2010, with the majority found in Germany (2,090), the UK (620), and Greece (395).
Ghana is further considered a Tier 2 country as the country does not meet the minimum threshold for the elimination of trafficking and smuggling. Migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons is a serious and growing concern for the Government of Ghana and EU governments, as Ghana is recognised as country of origin, transit, and destination of individuals for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and domestic and commercial labour.
Coupled with this irregular migration is the issue of brain drain, many skilled professionals especially from the health sector have left Ghana to Europe for greener pastures impacting negatively on the quality of life and wellbeing. The country has one of the highest emigration rates for highly skilled workers in Western Africa leading to diminished human capital.
Diaspora Social Media Usage as a major driver of irregular migration through misinformation
Social media is a primary source of information for many people. The use of social media has transformed how the youth share and seek travel information in Ghana. For example, the daily use of social media by Ghanaian diaspora youth such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and other forms of online engagements have negatively influenced the youth in Ghana and their perceptions on migrating to Europe. Empirical evidence from the Migration Media Network (#MMN) project alludes to some of these findings. This is especially true for young people between the ages of 15-35 years who constitute larger segment of the population. It is very common among diaspora youth to send messages and posts to friends and families in Ghana showcasing how life in Europe is very comfortable and how one can easily get rich by just traveling to Euope. Misinformation on how easy and cheap one can easily enter into Europe through irregular routes and quick access to resident permits via marriages are very common stories on social media users from the diaspora. Prospective migrants in Ghana, on the other hand, consider this these type of information on social media as facts and based on this may decide to embark on a vicious journey to Europe though the sea or other irregular migration routes. The increasing usage of social media due to rising access to internet connectivity in Ghana and by diaspora youth have contributed immensely to irregular migration from Ghana to Europe and often cited in recent times as a key driving factor causing increasing rates of irregular migration.
Diaspora youth as champions of change and addressing irregular migration
The author of this blog, Cosmas Kombat Lambini comes from Ghana. Although he came to Europe through an Erasmus Mundus programme in International Rural Development (https://www.eacea.ec.europa.eu/scholarships/emjmd-catalogue_en). The author is aware of numerous youths from Northern Ghana who often risk to embark on the voyage to Europe through Agadez in Niger-deserts in Libya and Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans to Europe. Even though Ghana is endowed with numerous natural and human resources with a lot of opportunities that most young people could tap into for national development. The Agricultural sector for example is a major contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the country has vast land for sustainable agricultural development that could be harnessed by the growing youth population as a possible alternative to address irregular migration.
In 2009, the author of this blog, founded the Anoshe Group in Chereponi in Northern Ghana, a farming community where he was born and bred. The group was registered as a Ghanaian enterprise under the Registry General Department and started farming operations in 2010. The sole vision of the group was to create business opportunities to the youth and women though agribusiness and to reduce rural-urban migration. The group started originally with 50 households and have since grown to 1000 households (1000ha) and operating in five (5) communities in Chereponi District of Ghana. The group received initial seed funding and technical support from Sabab Lou Stiftung-(sabab-lou.de) the Hohenheim University in Stuttgart.
The Anoshe Group is financially self-sustaining and created several direct and indirect jobs for the youth in the region. The group revenues generated through sales of farm yields and empowerment of vulnerable groups demonstrate that farming as enterprise could mitigate youth migrating to Europe with the needed support offered to them to venture into agribusiness.
In conclusion, this intervention provides evidence that diaspora youth could be positive agents of transformative change based on the rich experience and networks developed in Europe. However, this is only possible with the right individual motivation and appropriate incentives to give back to communities of origin back home in Ghana.
Contact e-mail: email@example.com This blog acknowledges funding from The Migrant Media Network (https://migrantmedia.network/):“Engaging Diaspora and Potential Migrants on Safe Migration and Positive Alternatives”. The viewsand opinionsexpressed in this blog are those of the authoronly.
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The Gambia is both a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Gambian women, girls, and to a lesser extent boys are exploited for prostitution and domestic servitude. Women and children from West African countries are also trafficked to The Gambia for commercial sexual exploitation, particularly to meet the demands of European sex tourists.
According to the refworld.org 2018 person in trafficking report, The Gambia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government has demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, investigating a few trafficking cases, but not prosecuting or convicting any offenders during the previous administration of former president Jammeh. The administration in power prior to 2017 did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any government employees complicit in trafficking. The former government identified and repatriated 19 Gambian girls subjected to domestic servitude in Lebanon, but did not identify or provide protective services to any trafficking victims in The Gambia.
In late 2020 Lovette Jallow of Action for Humanity, a non-governmental organization based in Sweden that responds to humanitarian issues in West and North Africa, initiated the repatriation of 38 trafficked women and 2 children from the Middle East to the Gambia. These women were all trafficked, some without any consent, some having hope for a better future abroad.
Jallow and her team initiated repatriation aid for these women after she was contacted by some of the victimized women. These women had also posted videos on social media, asking for help after many failed attempts to garner assistance from the Gambian embassy in Lebanon. One video shows them protesting at the Gambian embassy there, demanding help with repatriation in order to reunite them with their families in The Gambia.
According to statements Jallow made in a video she posted on social media, the Gambia government under President Adama Barrow failed to come to the women’s aid, until her NGO announced her support, to help repatriate these women and children. In another facebook post Jallow then annouced that The Gambian consulate in Lebanon agreed to release the emergency travel documents for the women.
Many especially Lovette herself believe it was a calculated move by the government to try to regain its citizens lost trust, despite having previously failed to act. On the other hand, at that time Jallow said she had gained a lot of respect and therefore praised Gambians across the world because they supported her work, amplified their voices using social media and using their (Gambian) own voices to speak up against the inhuman condition of the stranded women. ‘’I do not have trust or faith in the Gambian government nor how they disregard their citizens especially women stranded and trafficked to foreign countries’’ Ms Jallow further stated that more needs to be done to help Gambian citizens on Gambian soil and outside.
Prior to her NGOs team arrival in Dakar the government unexpectedly organized a team of delegates, who arrived in Dakar intercepting her NGOs bus to bring the individuals home when at first they declined her NGOs request to meet the women in Dakar and escort them home, this Jallow describe as an unprofessional move by a governing body of a whole state. Fortunately according to her, the women/ victims decline the government buses on site as the same government failed to assist them – some for several years of pleading and others for over 9 months. ‘’The distrust for the government was high and they were all keen to get safely home via the NGO assistance’’ she added.
After arrival Ms. Jallow mentioned her NGO distributed about one million Dalasi (20.000 Euros) amongst the women as a means to help them during the covid for food and any other expenses they may need to have whilst resettling back. This she says excluded an undisclosed amount of thousands of euros spent separately from paying for rent for the women to have a safe place to stay in Lebanon, Buses in Lebanon to take them to the airport, lawyer fees, food costs, plane tickets for all women, buses in Dakar and taxis to take them all individually home.
Jallow was understandably frustrated as the whole transaction took a lot of her time which she says could be utilized for another purposed if it was collaborated, nothing that governments complacency made everything much harder than it needed to be ‘’it is done now and I am extremely proud of the work achieved and hope more will get involved in this work’’.
In January this year The Gambian National assembly commended her NGO and the hard work it took in repatriating the stranded women home as they had requested. As she says, “I do not do this to get fame or praises, I do this to support womanhood, empower women, heal and shine together with this young women who are so vulnerable.” Yet women who had been helping were left out of the rescue operation.
Despite being disappointed with how the government handled the operation, Jallow continues to work to address trafficking. It is an urgent issue that needs to be tackled in order to protect women and children from continued exploitation.
The Migrant Media Network (#MMN)’s series Women Empowering Women is an initiative by our Gambian diaspora community manager Nyima Jadama, who also doubles as our women and migration expert coordinator. The aim of the series is to tell the stories of women in migration, with a focus on irregular migration in The Gambia.
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Over 40 participants attended the workshop, consisting of #MMN coordinators in Ghana, people from six key stakeholder organizations, and the media. They discussed the current status of activities that the stakeholders are undertaking in order to stem the tide of irregular migration and benefit more from regular migration.
Those present included:
The Migration Management Bureau of the Ghana Immigration Service
German Consulate of the Embassy of Germany in Ghana
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Ghana
International Organization for Migration, Ghana (IOM)
Africa Focal Point, Migration Working Group of UN Major Group for Children and Youth
Ghanaian-German Centre for Jobs, Migration, and Reintegration
Two main points emerged from the workshop. First, it was clear that there is a lot of potential to work together and that all stakeholders and communities would benefit from collaboration. All participants unanimously agreed that there are many benefits to communities and the nation derived from managing and minimizing irregular migration and promoting regular migration. To this end, #MMN endeavors to pursue formal collaborations with most of these organizations in due time. The visit to the Ghanaian-German Centre for Jobs, Migration, and Reintegration is a step in this direction.
Second, #MMN proposed that networking among organizations should be strengthened by undertaking joint activities in communities. Joint efforts would strengthen results. Undoubtedly, each organization is already doing a lot to stem irregular migration. Yet even greater success could be had if organizations get to know more about each other and the work they do and work together.
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Author: Peter Narh, #MMN Country coordinator, Ghana.
The luggage of my colleague on the Asky Airlines to The Gambia was delayed. As a result, we were quite bitter the first 2 days of our stay in Banjul, precisely Senegambia. Nothing seemed interesting nor nice to us about The Gambia. In those two days we told time and again our frustrations to Antifa (not her real name) the attendant at the restaurant of the hotel we were staying; frustrations about Asky Airlines, about having to walk 200 meters to the supermarket to buy a bottle of water, about the unavailability of a pressing iron in the hotel, about the cold nights, about almost everything in The Gambia. Antifa would join us to rave about our luggage, but also would intersperse her talk with flashes of pretty smiles and beautiful but sometimes queer gestures with her slender arms, in explanation to us about life in The Gambia.
After 2 days, my colleague and I resolved that luggage or no luggage life goes. As Ghanaians and the first time in The Gambia, we convinced ourselves that we would enjoy The Gambia as much as we could within the next 4 days more that we had before we would return to Accra. That was when The Gambia began to unfold to us. Our contacts and interactions with people anywhere we went, particularly taxi drivers, became experiences of relief to replace the pain of our delayed luggage. From the unique accent of English language that sounded to us more like Jamaican than African English, through the ubiquitous rasta hairstyle of almost every young man, to the almost unnoticeable Islamness in a country where most people say they are Muslims, The Gambia crept into our hearts as a haven of polite, cool, honest, and open society.
My colleague and I arrived in Senegambia (though Gambians say it is all Banjul) to support the launch of the Migrant Media Network (#MMN) project of r0g_agency for cultural and critical transformation. Supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and implemented by r0g agency, the #MMN project aims at providing access to open, reliable, and credible information for The Gambian public, particularly the youth to guide their informed decisions about migration.
r0g agency seeks to establish itself through #MMN as a leading open-source technology-based organisation for discussions and community work towards encouraging safe and regular migration. It also encourages the development of positive alternatives of youth careers in their own homes. Inasmuch as migration and #MMN were full in our minds in The Gambia, my colleague and I made space well enough in our schedules to immerse ourselves in our new environment; we did not regret!
Both in and out migration seemed to be a big economy in The Gambia. On a couple of visits that my colleague and I made to the Banjul International Airport within 3 days in search of our lost luggage, I noticed on each visit that majority of travellers were young men and women (the youth). It was the same observation at the National Public Health Laboratories at Kotu, where my colleague and I went twice for our Covid-19 test results when we were about returning to Accra. There at the Kotu, just like at the Banjul International Airport, we met a population of Gambians waiting for their Covid-19 test results as well. Again, here at the Kotu, about 90% of this population we met was youth. One gentleman told us he was travelling to Finland, and another to the United Kingdom.
In the same measure, immigration to The Gambia was to me a high phenomenon. It appeared that a lot of non-Gambians visit The Gambia frequently. On our daily trips to Ali Baba or Caesar’s to enjoy those delicious and nutritious lunch or supper, we met on the streets or saw at corner bars and roadside restaurants, whites and other people you would certainly assume are not Gambian indigenes. In our hotel, a host of these seemingly ‘non-Gambians’ bathed daily in the pool with their Gambian partners. Antifa (our friend at the hotel restaurant) told us once that we had seen nothing really; that in the peak season before Covid-19, the hotel pool would be packed daily with black and white soul mates doing their own thing.
By now, around the 4th day of our visit, The Gambia had come to me as country of friendly access and exit; Gambians exited as they welcomed non-Gambians. It was not surprising at all that our host in The Gambia had assembled a crop of youth who were well experienced in the discourse around the exit and entry spectacle (migration), to be local coordinators for the #MMN project in The Gambia. These young fellows were deep in community work to encourage youth to harness resources at home for livelihoods or to make informed choices if they would necessarily migrate. While my observations at the Banjul International Airport and at the Kotu were scenes that appeared to me that Gambian youth were very mobile and migrate a lot, some of these youth like the new #MMN local coordinators were also resolved to discourage irregular migration, by engaging with communities in participative activities to provide credible information to guide youth in their migration and entrepreneurial decisions.
After 5 days of migration work and observations of social relations in and around Banjul and Senegambia, it was time to cool off the last time with a stroll at the beautiful and decent beach. My colleague and I again were privileged to ride in a cab whose driver was happy to join us on our stroll on the beach and then to take us to the Caesar’s for supper. There at the beach, I joined a group of young men to draw their daily catch of fish, a delightful experience!
Yet, when we eventually drew the net after 15 minutes of determined efforts, only two big fish and some garbage were caught. The about 20 young men I was drawing the net with were nonetheless not disappointed; certainly, they would try again and again the next day, they told me with conviction.
Finally, on 03 May 2021 we flew back to Accra. At the Banjul International Airport, I had to pay 1,000 Gambian Dalasi, the same amount we paid when we landed at the same airport 6 days before. I was told the ‘toll’ was a contribution towards the provision of security for everyone. At that moment, I was convinced that Africans are really a communal people; here were Gambians eager and ready to care for and about my security even when I was one foot out of their country; at a price of 1,000 Dalasi though!
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Migrant Media Network (MMN) project was last Thursday launched in The Gambia. MMN also promotes youth entrepreneurship at home as a way to build economic and social resilience, encouraging youth to create their opportunities and work within their communities.
The project seeks to contribute towards providing credible, reliable, and factual information to potential migrants to make informed choices.
The project is funded by r0g_agency for open culture and critical transformation, a Germany registered NGO that supports sustainable and hybrid forms of cultural innovation and social enterprise in the global south.
Through its flagship programme Migrant Media Network (#MMN), it provides young Africans with reliable information and training on migration issues and social media to make informed decisions and be aware of safer migration options to Europe.
The 15 youth participants, who would become regional coordinators for the #MMN programme in The Gambia went through a 3-day training at National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) conference hall following the launch to equip themselves to organise community outreaches on irregular and regular migration.
Dembo Kambi, Migrant Media Network country coordinator for The Gambia said the project would be operational in West Coast, North Bank, Lower River and Upper River Regions for a start.
He added that this was because a migration survey conducted indicated that those regions are hard hit by irregular migration.
He noted that the project is not condemning people from migrating but to give them choices.
Mr. Kambi described The Gambia as one of the least developed countries globally with young people deeply affected by unemployment.
Peter Narh, Migrant Media Network country coordinator for Ghana said migrants could contribute to peace and development of the continent.
However, he said a lot of people die unnecessarily on the seas and therefore they do not encourage irregular migration.
Mr. Narh said young people have been enslaved because people want to migrate irregularly outside the official channels. He therefore urged young people to take advantage of opportunities in their countries to harness their potentials and do something great for themselves in their countries.
Isabell Blochl, Charge d’ Affairs Germany Embassy in The Gambia said the ‘back-way’ is dangerous, adding that many Gambians have lost their lives trying to cross the Sahara desert and Mediterranean sea.
“Every lost Gambian soul on the ‘back-way’ is one too many”, she stated.
Ms Blochl thanked Gambian stakeholders, rOg agency, Ministry of Youth and Sports as well as participants for embracing the project.
She expressed Germany’s willingness to continue to stay engaged in The Gambia, saying they hope the project will have a positive impact.
Pa Malick Ceesay, National Youth Council deputy executive director said they will always support the cause of young people as well as the project.
He noted that young people have a big role to play towards the development of the nation.
Mr. Ceesay said the issue of migration is everybody’s business, adding that: “it is a fundamental freedom and right to migrate but it has to the done legally to minimise risk”.
He urged advocates to ensure information they share is correct and from the right source for the benefit of young people.
Ousman Fatty, chairman National Youth Council said the project will help tackle migration issues in The Gambia.
He described irregular migrant as a serious issue that has affected over 90 percent of young people.
He urged participants to do their best and surpass Ghana’s success. He also assured them of NYC’s support at all times to ensure the project is a success.
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Migrant Media Network is a project by r0g_agency funded by the German Foreign Office. It seeks to foster an informed decision-making process regarding migration to Europe by creating awareness on migration issues & social media sensitization.