By Madiba Singhateh
As news of the numerous death of Gambians who are attempting to go to Europe through what some called the “Back way” lingers, many young people are still determined to undertake the perilous journey despite the known risks involved in such a venture.
This was made known to Foroyaa when this reporter visited ‘vous’ or meeting places in the Kanifing Municipality and talked to young people about their present conditions and the future.
Due to the high unemployment rate and the hopelessness affecting young people in the Sub-Saharan African countries, including The Gambia, many are now taking the risk of going to Europe in search of greener pastures through the barren Sahara desert and war torn Libya and then crossing the Mediterranean Sea in mostly rickety boats which often claim lives. According to UNHCR reports, 160,000 migrants have left the shores of Tripoli, Libya, to go to Italy this year by crossing the Mediterranean.
Talking to this reporter, Mustapha, a youth in his early twenties, said he is fully aware of the dangers involved in the journey and the difficulties that those who undertake the journey encounter. He, however, stressed that he would still go as he has no work to do here to earn income for his survival. He said his younger brother has attempted and succeeded in entering Italy. “Since my brother has made it, I’m determined to follow suit. The only thing that is still keeping me here is money, as you know one needs money to pay for his way into Europe,” he said.
On whether he weights the options and the inherent dangers, Mustapha said he will try his luck come what may.
When told that some people who have made it to Italy are complaining about the hardships they encounter there at the holding centres without enough food or decent accommodation, he responded that this is a temporal thing as far as one will be eventually released to go to other parts of Europe in search of a job and better life.
Pa Assan, a carpenter by profession who is in his late twenties, also expressed his determination to go through the ‘Back way’ to Europe.
“If I get money now, I’ll not sleep in the Gambia today,” he vowed.
When asked why he is abandoning his profession for the unknown, Pa Assan responded “You should not ask me that question as everybody knows the hardship that is in the country today.”
He said they are talking about young people developing skills and that if they acquire such skills there is nowhere to place them or capital to start their own enterprises. “When I work for people they don’t have money to pay me because of the hardship in the country,” he said.
Pa Assan argued that the country is so tough to the point that they are not afraid to risk the journey to Europe because there is nothing for them here that encourage them to stay and live fulfilled lives.
“The government officials always condemn the young people labeling us as lazy and when we attempt to go through the ‘Back way’ to seek for greener pastures they again blame us. What is government providing for young people to stay in terms of jobs? Where are the jobs?” asked Pa Assan.
He added that government should create jobs for young people if they don’t want them to go to Europe through the ‘Back way.’
He also disagreed with the notion that they are going to Europe to kill themselves, adding that they are instead going in order for them and their families to escape poverty.
Mr. Modou Saine, is a young man who is in support of young people going in search of greener pastures. He said as for him he does not want to go to Europe but understands why the others are risking their lives just to become economically independent. “Imagine a young man who has left school with or without good certificates or skills and unable to find work to earn income. How do you stay with your parents and siblings? Who would be supporting the family when the parents who are struggling day and night grow old or are unable to continue doing so?” he asked.
He said unless the government provides young people with the opportunities to engage in gainful employment, the ‘Back way’ syndrome is here to stay and many young people will not succeed, while a few will make it.
“The parents are in serious economic hardships as many families live on hand to mouth, while others are struggling very hard to make ends meet and salaries are very low,” he said.
He said had it not been the remittances coming from Gambians in the Diaspora, many families would have been in dire economic straits.
Speaking to one young man, who is presently in Libya trying out his luck, he said he is waiting for a boat to cross to Italy.
He told this reporter on the phone that he has been there for more than three months now and is going through a lot of hardship at the hands of traffickers.
When asked why he still wants to endure such hardships and not considering returning home, the young man responded “coming is not an option for me.”
He said the Gambia as it is at present offers him nothing but hopelessness and a bleak future.
By Madiba Singhateh