The mass exodus of African youths from the continent to Europe through the Mediterrean is one of the great tragedies since the days of colonialism. People in overcrowded small boats, risking people smugglers, kidnapping, deserts, sea crossings and the possibility of being sent home, all for the dream of a better life. However, some simply migrate to make ends meet.

Alarming Statistics

According to International Organisation for Migration (OIM), more than 3,770 migrants were reported to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015. Meanwhile, this year has become the deadliest for migrants crossing the Mediterranean bound for Europe, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, with those seeking to make the journey from Libya at greatest risk.

According to the spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, William Spindler, “at least 3,800 people have died, making 2016 the deadliest ever.” United for Intercultural Action, a European network that supports migrants and refugees, has counted fatal accidents since 1988; more than 14,000 migrants died on their journey to Europe, of which 71 percent drowned. More than 1800 among the deaths and missing are Gambians.
President Yahya Jammeh’s Passing the Buck 

Meanwhile, in the case of The Gambia, the country has a long history of migration with long standing diaspora links to US and Europe. It is estimated that, the remittances make up 20% of the country’s national GDP. However, the recent spike in migration to Europe, especially among youths is largely due to the political and economical instability in the Gambia created by Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years of dictatorship.

This increase in migration has recently led to 392% increment in the number of Gambians claiming asylum in Europe, between 2012 to 2016. Across the EU, the number of Gambian asylum applications in 2015 stood at 12,205 applications, with Gambia ranking third in the list of nationalities claiming asylum in Italy at the end of 2015.

Instead of the government of the Gambia try and call a national dialogue to find a lasting solution to this menace, Yahya Jammeh resorted to his usual tactics of passing the buck. He went on to the national television blaming largely the Mandinkas for being the majority among the people who fled his country and try to tarnish the reputation of his government. As far as Jammeh is concern, the youths of the Gambia only matters when he needs their support to strengthen his grips on power either through the elections or vigilantism to threaten the local populace. Or better still accused the European for deliberately drowning the migrant boats in the Mediterrean sea. It is a sad reality that the future of our nation perishes before of own eyes without doing anything about it.

Gambian joins people traffickers

The “back way” syndrome has now become more and more dangerous, especially among the youths themselves as some people are taking advantage of the vulnerable ones. I have credible reports that at least two people from the Gambia, one by the name T-boy from Brikama and another called Sankung who are pictured above, have joined people traffickers to trick “would be migrants” in Libya and sold them to the rebels or people traffickers. The people pictured below are part of people traffickers who were beaten by some of the migrants who paid the ransom and were freed.

According to the reports, T-boy, Sankung and others would go to the people traffickers and inform them of the presence of Gambians in certain areas. People traffickers would come and kidnap the migrants then lock them up, force the migrants to call their relatives to demand money for them to cross over to Europe and until they receive a ransom from the detainees, the youths would stay in detention indefinitely. This led to so many Gambians being locked up to die or missing on their journey to Europe.

The link below is a video highlighting the plights of Gambians and other migrants in Libya who are locked up indefinitely in cells with all the doors sealed and they go for weeks without food or drink. These conditions led to so many of our youths to die horribly in detentions.

Click on the link to watch the video highlighting the plights of Gambians youths in Libya

It’s safe to assume that most Gambian media houses, especially those online are busy covering the upcoming December presidential election in the Gambia which makes this existential problem less important to report. However, we should all join hands and makes it a priority to inform and educate our fellow Gambians about the dangers that lie ahead in their quest to flee Yahya Jammeh’s brutality.