By Yankuba Jallow
The Gambia Immigration Department (GID) on Friday 10th November 2017, intercepted 108 people who were embarking on the perilous ‘back way’ journey to the Canary Islands.
Visiting the GID’s Irregular Migration Unit (IMU) office in Tanji, it was confirmed to this reporter that 102 Senegalese, 1 Guinean and 5 Gambians as well as a truck carrying their logistics, were intercepted and impounded in Toubakolong village in Upper Nuimi District. These men were apprehended between Thursday 9th and Saturday 11th November, 2017.
Speaking to Commissioner Foday Gassama, the Head of the IMU at the GID, said 5 Gambians, 1 Guinean and 102 Senegalese were intercepted on their clandestine way to Europe. He added that the men intended to use the Canary’s Island as their first stop. He said the patrol and surveillance team on the West Coast and North Bank Regions, worked tirelessly to apprehend these men after receiving tipoff that some people will converge in Toubakolong and embark on the ‘back-way’ journey to the canary island. “Teams (both surveillance and patrol), were for over three weeks, reinforced and working tirelessly on this issue, in order to stop these people from embarking on such a risky route”, he said.
He said his team then engaged the communities and asked them to inform the GID of any unusual happenings in their respective areas; that the information they had received was these people will possibly leave during the this years’ annual pilgrimage to Touba in Senegal known as “MagalTouba”; that he worked hard with his men to reinforce the teams in those areas. Commissioner Gassama said the team at Toubakolong Village, saw many youths in the early hours of Friday 10th November 2017, who began coming in small groups and were intercepted by his men; that after series of Interrogations, they confessed that they were embarking on the perilous route to Europe. He said the Senegalease nationals were quickly transported to Barra Immigration Post but that another team was left at Toubakolong; that after sometime when the men were transported to Barra, a truck that was loaded with their logistics arrived and was also intercepted. He explained that the logistics included 9 barrels of fuel, a Yamaha engine (60 horse power), 24 containers with 20 litres of water each, 4 bags of charcoal, 1 bag of salt, 1 bag of milk powder, 1 cooking pot and 4 packets of biscuits. “The logistics as well as vehicle were impounded and were transported to the IMU centre in Tanji” he said.
The PRO of GID, Superintendent Mamading S. Dibba confirmed that after receiving information from security intelligence that these men will embark on the ‘back way’ route, the GID worked tirelessly to intercept these people which he said has proved successful; that 50 of the men were intercepted at Toubakolong in Upper Nuimi on Thursday 9th November whilst another 58 were intercepted in Bakau, Jabang and Tanji on Saturday 11th, bringing the total to 108.
He explained that these men were supposed to be shipped from Toubakolong to deep waters at a point called “Boppi Jerreh”, where they were going to be transferred into a bigger ship that was waiting in the Atlantic Ocean; that the GID has engaged the Senegalese Authorities in the Gambia regarding the issue.
“The smuggler who identified himself as Sheikh Tijan Jah surrendered himself to the GID following the apprehension of his men”, he said.
PRO Dibba calls on communities in the Gambia to work closely with the GID in order to fight against Irregular Migration in the country; that the GID will continue to fight irregular migration syndrome and will never relent on this holistic duty to the citizenry.
“I call on all parents and family members to desist from sponsoring people to embark on irregular migration because it is risky and has caused many of our young generation, to lose their lives at sea”, he said.
The smuggler himself, Sheikh Tijan Jah, said this is the first time he is embarking on such a business. “I have registered 110 men and I don’t want to go to Europe because I have my profession back home in Senegal”, he said. He said some of his men have departed and are already at sea. On why he came to the Gambia, he said this was to ensure that they put all logistics in place in the run up to their planned trip.
“I came to the Gambia some time ago to buy the boats and the machines”, he said.
“Security in Senegal is tightened and it is not easy to move from there. That is why we come to the Gambia because we were told that it is easy here”, he said.
Speaking to some of the intercepted Senegalese nationals at the GID IMU in Tanji, they confirmed to this reporter that they all decided to embark on the perilous journey due to social and economic pressures back home. Most of the men in the group were fishermen whilst some were students, farmers etc. The fishermen held that they ventured into the journey because of over fishing in Senegal which is making it for them to lose their only means of survival to illegal fishing Companies. They thanked the GID IMU officials for saving them and instilling hope in them that they can make it in life in their countries.
All of them revealed to this medium that they pay the smuggler between 30,000 to 35,000 dalasi or a little above 300,000 CFA.