Migrant returnees on nationwide tour

By Saikou Suwareh Jabai

Youth Against Irregular Migration (YAIM), concluded a week long sensitization campaign in the Central River South and Upper River Regions, where they explained their experiences to communities, to discourage the risky ‘backway’ syndrome.

The group was formed by Gambian migrants in detention camps in Libya, prior to their repatriation by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and comprise those who unsuccessfully embarked on the journey to Europe. Many of their colleagues perished at sea and in the desert of the Sahara. Some died in detention camps while others are held hostage or caught in cross fires between Libyan rebel factions.

“For those of us who made it back, we make this our duty to spread the message of what we lived, through this journey. We do not wish to see our brothers and sisters repeat the same mistakes we did. The journey is hopeless and costs you everything that you hold dear. Even your life!!” Mustapha Sallah, the group’s secretary general said.

“The aim of the campaign caravan is to discourage youth from engaging in irregular migration and to ensure that young people are given opportunities to participate in decision making platforms,” Karamo Keita, the group’s Chairperson said; that such will help young people to meaningfully contribute their quota in national development.

All of the members of the group were one time in detention camps, taken as hostages or escaped near-death situations on the journey. One by one, they recounted their experiences to each community they visited and interacted with. They visited markets, Schools, bantabas and ghettos, to spread the message.

In Jareng, they planted 2,000 trees with the community as part of their campaign. At the community gathering after the tree planting exercise, the Alkalo of the village Alhaji Malanding Ceesay, expressed delight at the initiative of the returnees to spread their experiences, as a way of discouraging others.

In Brikama Ba, one Hamidou Barry said they will never embark on such journeys, after hearing what the migrant returnees went through. “We are saying ‘no’ to the ‘backway’ or irregular migration. Your stories are very emotional and they have inspired us to stay and work in the country, rather than risk everything just for Europe,” Barry said.

This is the third phase of the nationwide campaign that the group is embarking on. The first phase started in the North Bank, then the Central River Region North and now the Upper River and Central River Regions South. The next phase will see the group visit Lower River Region.

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