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!

Migrant Media Network project launched in Gambia

Article By: Cherno Omar Bobb , Posted on The Point for freedom and democracy Gambia

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.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2021

Women need to discover that they are fierce and strong and full of fire, and not be afraid to show their strength. Women should no longer have to hold themselves back, but rather let their passions burn brighter than their fears.’ (Wedam Kadoa Rhoda, #MMN Local Coordinator, Northern Region) .

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2021!

We – the #MMN team want to thank all our partners, colleagues and funders for their support in the past year. It was of course not always the easiest of years due to the pandemic which had a big impact both on migration issues as well as on the way we had to work.Looking back today at all that we had set out to do on tackling misinformation and disinformation both online and offline regarding migration, we would not have managed to do what we did without you. As we bid farewell to the challenges of 2020, we look forward to a better 2021! With you, we will continue our work on the Migrant Media Network – sharing, informing and educating each other on “safe migration and positive alternatives at home and abroad”.

Refugee Minors with Major Traumas

“Mit Trauma im Gepäck”
Text: Marlene Goetz
Drawings: Hannah Brinkmann

Those who flee from war and persecution often suffer emotional damage. Minors are treated therapeutically in the Hamburg refugee clinic.

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From the Sahara to the Subway

“From the Sahara to the subway”
Text: Ahmed Mohammed Omer
Drawings: Alice Socal

In order to better understand the Germans, the Eritrean Merhawi Baire seeks contact. But how does it work if you don’t know the social etiquette? The Eritrean Merhawi Baire tries to understand the Germans better by making contact with them. But how does that work when you don’t know the social norms.

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Foreign body

“Foreign body”
Text: Asma Al Abidi
Drawings: Ilki Kocer
Website: http://alphabetdesankommens.de/fremdkoerper/
Bayan Salaymeh has moved across three continents to study. She not only learned a lot about feminism, but also about discrimination. Bayan Salaymeh moved across three continents for her studies. She didn’t learn a lot about just feminism, but also discrimination.

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DOTS – The Impact Summit 2020, Sustainable, positive alternatives to regular migration

Hosted by:
Thomas Kalunge

r0g_agency Migrant Media Network initiative

10.12.2020
14:00


In this session, we revisited a topic we came across while running the migrant media network project: a discussion about migration, technology, border control, and migration and technology in general. Due to the perceived or real increase in complexity of migration, governments are increasingly turning to emerge technologies for solutions.
These technologies come with promises of effectiveness, efficiency, fairness, and protection. The questions, however, that need to be asked are:

  1. Can technology be neutral?
  2. Does it impact people from different backgrounds equally?
  3. How do fairness and protection work in a society marked by great inequality?

Understanding migration and its patterns and flows, both in the mid-term and long-term, has continued to be
difficult. This has been made even more challenging due to the highly dynamic nature of migration and the people’s accelerated mobility. Due to all of these factors, policymakers and decision-makers find themselves in a situation in which they are often needing to act reactively, rather than proactively. While we accept that there isn’t a crystal ball that can give us definite answers to a topic that is increasingly uncertain and volatile, we believe that this uncertainty can be reduced by having an inclusive discussion that brings together all #stakeholders.Invisible Borders and Outsourcing of Borders Migration #Technology and Data Protection .

Sustainable, positive alternatives to regular migration
@weareGIG
Hosted by:
Thomas Kalunge
Speakers:
Tiziano & Don Mattia Ferrari – Mediterranea Saving Humans
Peter Narh – Researcher, Lecturer University of Ghana Legon
Rhoda Wedam – Song- Ba Empowerment Center Ghana
Linda Bonyo – CEO | Lawyers Hub (Tech for Justice) & Africa Law Tech

Borders of Fear Meetup: Facing Invisible Borders


Facing invisible borders, every year thousands of people from developing countries apply for a visa to western countries and face an often tedious visa application process. They worry about whether they have the right documents or whether a typo might put their application directly into the reject pile and anxiously await a response. At best, successfully getting a visa is a completely mystifying process. At worst, after doing all the hard work, their visa gets denied.

Are the strict regulations governing access to the consulate and the complicated application process strategically designed to induce fear? If so, why?

The Borders of Fear Meetup: Facing Invisible Borders was organized by the Disruption Network Lab and held on October 28, 2020 from 19:00-22:00 at ACUD Macht Neu in Berlin’s Mitte district. It was hosted by Thomas C. Kalunge of the #MigrantMediaNetwork. Thomas sought to answer questions related to the journey of a potential migrant to Germany using design thinking.

Migrantmedianetwork provides young Africans with reliable information and training on migration issues and social media, in order to help others make informed decisions and be aware of safer migration options to Europe.

The German & European community was of particular focus in this #MMN meetup, with 13 Germans and other European citizens of the German community taking part in the event that welcomed 25 participants overall. Thomas began the evening by presenting on how a design thinking methodology could help us gain a deeper knowledge of the situation. He then took participants on a hypothetical journey that detailed the steps an individual coming from a developing country would have to take in order to apply for a visa to come to Germany as a migrant. In walking participants through this visa application process, he was able to make the invisible border visible, showing all of the hurdles that exist along the way.

As of July 2020, the German passport was ranked as the 3rd strongest passport in the world: German passport holders can travel to about 189 countries without a visa. The problems surrounding visa applications was therefore new to Germans, or citizens of the European Union, and highlighted the inequity faced by others whose citizenship does not bestow upon them these privileges.
The evening event was designed to be experiential in nature and covered the following topics:

Role Play: Visa Application Process
All participants were briefed and asked to arrange their documents in order and proceed to the gate for security control before they proceeded to the consulate.
Consulate setup: There were three consulates onsite ready to process the visa application forms of the participants. The participants went through two security checks: all required documents were checked, and electronic gadgets were left at the gate by the security checkpoint.

5 out of 20 participants were granted a visa, leaving 15 participants without visa. Participants were rejected based on the following criteria:

  • Failure to answer odd questions
  • Failure to submit required documents
  • No reason given

Through role playing participants were able to in a small way experience the nature of the visa application process in developing countries.

After this, the group discussed and sought answers and solutions to these questions:

  • What are the challenges that potential migrants face in the migration process, especially for those from developing countries?
  • Why do some of the migrants choose to not even try to apply for a visa and instead take the irregular (backdoor) path, even in cases where the backdoor path costs more money than the regular path?
  • Are the strict regulations governing access the consulate and the complicated application process strategically designed to induce fear? If so, why?

Discussing policy and public dialogue
In the past, the German government has called for public dialogue and suggestions for how to make the visa application process more humane. Yet at the same time, more border security was put in place and they have begun to strategically grant fewer visa. This led to demonstrations in front of embassies in developing countries and drastically increased irregular (backdoor) migration.

Based on this information and the role play, participants where divided into three groups to brainstorm and discuss these questions:

  • Have you applied for visa before?
  • How was your application?
  • What made it difficult or easy for you?
  • How did this process make you feel?
  • Do you see any fault in the process?
  • How can this process be made more effective?
  • What could be changed about the process?

Outcome
The workshop was designed to foster discussion and allow participants to gain a better understanding of the hurdles that stand in the way of applying for a visa and using the prescribed path to migration. These goals were met. Participants came up with ideas and solutions they were ready and willing to share with the German government in the context of the public dialogue surrounding migration and the visa application process.
Ideas garnered from the discussions:

  • Provide clear information on the official websites
  • Websites need to be functional and user-friendly
  • There should be offline info-centers
  • Provide clear information on the reason for a rejection
  • More funding to have sufficient & well-trained staff
  • Greater transparency of the process
  • Decentralized Consulates / Agencies for more accessibility
  • Ban discriminating & intimidating behavior on the part of agency or staff

Another group argued that the process should be free and would be more fair if the following were implemented:

  • Personnel should be well-informed / educated in order to provide accurate answers
  • The process should be anonymous
  • Provide a clear checklist of requirements/ documents (available online and offline at the consulate)
  • Forbid questions related to socio-economic status
  • Provide visa assistance through simple language forms and someone who does a pre-check for accuracy and typos
  • Examining the root causes of problems more extensively
  • Stop media fear mongering
  • Digitalize the visa process (automation could decrease risk of prejudice / racism in interviews)
  • Reduce “ultra security” in application centers.

Written by Benedictus Agbelom


#MMN Berlin Workshop Feedback

One month on… Migrant Media Network Workshop
My major takeaway and suggestion… from the participants themselves

It made me realize how seriously the migration issue really is. When we watched the interviews with the woman and the trafficker in the film Bushfallers, it struck me. The woman talked about working 24 hours and she looked like a smart, educated woman to have fallen into the trap.


The key word from the workshop for me was consciousness, thinking about the unintended consequences like the story of the woman who was posting photos of her fancy, good life. But in reality, she was sharing the opposite of what she was living. This person was needing some help but where was that support to come from?


I say to include more real stories from real migrants, from real people who have been through the journey. There’s more intensity and seriousness when somebody tells their own story because it’s more relatable and people get lost in numbers. When you don’t have that person or story, you need very high statistics to tell others that it’s indeed a problem.


I suggest more real-life scenarios and to practice different interventions on certain social media posts. It’s not enough to tell someone not to go, but necessary to offer a solution or an alternative. We can all help on a micro-level and not just wait on government and the macro-level to act.


The workshop wasn’t clear-cut on how to tackle the migration issue, but more so, raising awareness of the problem. I wonder how we can help people who are on the way. There should be opportunities to stay back at home, and we can all support those endeavors.


I would want to take lessons from the videos we watched and the stories we heard. Many times, the stories are based not only on poverty but also on greed.


Human beings are not static beings. We are born just a few centimeters and we grow within ourselves, there is movement and that movement needs to manifest itself outside to explore new places.

Migration is not a problem but a solution to a human desire to explore and to grow, and we need to do it much more conscientiously.

Written by Nicholas Bruce