#MigrantMediaNetwork Radio Program – The Gambia

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!  

https://migrantmedia.network/mmn-radio-talk-shows/#the-gambia

Gambia an irregular migration hotspot-challenges and risks

By Cosmas Kombat Lambini – #MMN Migration Expert

Figure: Migrants in distress as their boat sinks. Source: The Atlantic

Introduction

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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Together we heal, learn and shine

Photo Courtesy : Lovette

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. 

The Gambia in the eyes of a visitor

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.

Participants at the launch of the #MMN in The Gambia; 29 April 2021

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!

Author and ‘friends’ drawing fish at the beach; 02 May 2021

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!