By Sulayman Bah
Lives, including that of Gambians, continue to perish in high seas unabated in last-ditch attempts by youths to enter Europe.
Gambians entering various well-to-do European countries and seeking asylum there has soared by the numbers. But death tolls of the journey under-takers is also on the upward trajectory.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Migration Organisation (IMO) peg the number of migrants’ sea deaths at about 3,770 as of March 2016.
But this tale of large scale human devastation, could ironically work to Gambia’s advantage in the not-too-distant future, according to the National Sports Council, a technical arm of government.
Majority goers are usually teenagers and take sports as escape route upon landing. Many amateur footballers and athletes are being produced this way with the long term ambition of representing their respective countries internationally.
This, Marcel Mendy, Executive Secretary of the National Sports Council – a technical arm of government –believes could be the only positive from a storyline so synonymous with death.
‘Gambia will stand to benefit if only they (the athletes taking the journey) will continue to do sports. But the danger here is before they get to Europe, the ordeals they go through or some of them (sic.)
‘Some will get there and suffer a lot to the extent of even wanting to come back voluntarily. If they continue to do sports, we hope that some day Gambia will benefit.
‘Of course there is this irony of them going and perishing in high seas or them going and succeeding,’ Marcel, who’s not oblivious of the journey’s countless drawbacks, says.
On tackling a menace that has left desolate mothers childless, Mendy, said: ‘We have been advising government with this or along these lines. And we have been working with some partners; the European Union –they have some projects trying to stop or reduce the illegal migration.
‘So we’re also talking with them about the importance of investing in our sports. This can be a way of encouraging them (the youth cohort) or convincing them to believe that they can succeed at home,’ he says.
October last year, the country was rocked by news of two athletes’ death –one of them the Scorpions’ women’s national team goalkeeper Fatim Jawara.
Reacting on this, he volunteered: ‘We were devastated when we heard their deaths. Wrestler and Fatima we know them. It’s an irreparable lost. We as a nation need to strategies and some kind of motivation and investment toward youth employment. With this, few will have a change of heart. This can definitely save lives.’