By Buba Gagigo
Ismaila Badjie, program manager at the National Youth Council (NYC), has attributed the root cause of irregular migration in the Gambia to low wages rather than unemployment
Speaking at a participatory dialogue organized by YEP Africa to address youth unemployment and irregular migration, Badjie shared insights from a recent survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the National Youth Council (NYC).
Despite the common perception associating irregular migration with unemployment, Badjie emphasized that the survey results, soon to be released, reveal a different reality. He recounted his interactions with people across the country and challenged the prevailing notion that unemployment is the primary driver for youth leaving the country.
“We went round the country to talk to the people to know which are the drivers to irregular migration. Yes, people are attributing it heavily to unemployment, but I will tell you this, it is not unemployment that is driving young people out of the country. Some will start to say ‘is he crazy?” or “Is he mad’? I am not crazy. I am not mad. I was in the field and I spoke to Young people and their parents, and I got feedback from them, and the report that we got from the survey is about to be released very soon,” he said.
Badjie pointed out instances where employed individuals, including graduate teachers, police officers, soldiers, and fire officers, were engaging in irregular migration. This led him to assert that the driving force behind such journeys is the inadequate salary structure. He highlighted the financial struggles faced by many, citing a monthly salary of D10,000 as insufficient, especially considering the high cost of living and dependency rates in the country.
“I saw graduate teachers embarking on the back-way journey; who can tell me those people are not employed? I saw police officers leaving their jobs and going on the back way, I saw soldiers leaving their jobs; I saw fire officers leaving their jobs. Are these people unemployed?” he asked.
In addressing the misconception that only unemployed youth take the back way, Badjie acknowledged their existence but stressed that abandoning jobs to seek better opportunities abroad is also a prevalent trend. He concluded that the key motivating factor for youth opting for the back way is the insufficiency of current wages, rather than a lack of employment opportunities.
“Yes, there are unemployed youths embarking on the backway Journey, but there are also people who abandoned their jobs to go on the backway Journey. Now the question is, “What is the driving force, then? The driving force is the salary structure. This is a fact. How many people go home with a D10,000 salary every end of the month in this country? And even with that ten thousand dalasis, you will agree with me that the dependency rate in this country is very high.
“Ten thousand Dalasis? What can that do for you and your family for thirty days? Can it sustain you for thirty days? You have a friend that you are moving with; he embarked on the journey, and you are here with a salary of ten thousand Dalasis a month. The friend embarked on the journey, and two years later, he’s building a Mansion. And you are here and cannot even afford a bicycle. Now this is what is pushing our youth to take the back way. Not the unemployment,” he said.