President Adama Barrow criticized the pitiful situation of thousands of young people taking the ‘back way’ route to reach Europe and calling on the world to support his administration’s effort to keep them at home.
Gambian youths make a large chunk of arrivals by sea to Europe. Most of them filed asylum but their applications have been rejected and the EU plans on having the repatriated.
The Barrow government has helped many Gambian youths stranded in Libya to return to the country. At least 375 would-be migrants have returned, cutting short their journey since April.
Hundreds of Gambians have died and much more have disappeared, feared to be dead by their families. Gambian authorities and the IOM also found that hundreds of them are being held in detention centers, especially in Western Libya.
“The journey is so risky that many perish at high seas and never reach their final destination. Countless others disappear into immigration detention centers or vanish in the sands of the Sahara desert,” Mr. Barrow said.
“Those who are able to complete the journey are often dismissed as economic migrants and sent back home. This sense of hopelessness and frustration also provides fertile ground for
smugglers and extremist groups to recruit innocent youths into the criminal underworld.”
At least one young Gambian is confirmed to have joined ISIL in Western Libya. The appearance of Dawda Jallow in a propaganda video has shocked citizens and put authorities on alert.
Extremists and smugglers are now paying poor youths to join them becoming middlemen and fighters for the outlawed groups, mostly operating from Northern Africa.
Libya descended into chaos since the fall of Moammar Ghadaffi. ISIL and criminal syndicates have used it as a fertile ground to grow, exploiting the migration routes to hold many Gambians for ransom in unofficial detention centers, where they’re being abused and tortured.
At least 86 Gambians have died as of May this year and some 34 others missing in Libya alone, according to the Gambian Migrant Association there. Some died after they were denied medical care in jails.
“Young people do not deserve this experience. They deserve the chance to enjoy a safe and prosperous future, at home. Creating new employment opportunities that provide young people with sustainable incomes and connect them to a revitalized land, healthy and productive environment is an investment in the future of the nation,” said Barrow.
Gambia is under pressure to accept thousands of its citizens under deportation and illegally staying in Europe. Deportation is a sensitive manner and authorities say it has to be addressed using a holistic approach.
Barrow declined to sign a repatriation pact in May, while on a visit to Brussels. EU is now threatened to put visa and aid restrictions on Gambia’s political elite to force them to accept deportees.
Remittances sent from Gambians in the Diaspora make up more than 22 percent of the country’s GDP, making its citizens abroad a significant political and economic constituency.
Migration has taken a heavy toll on Gambia, especially in rural communities. The EU has so far given more than $28 million to the Barrow administration to help create jobs and keep Gambia’s majority youth population at home.