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Baboucarr Nyang, Human Rights Activist

The Gambia emerged from the tyranny of 22 years after the country was characterized by maladministration, human rights violations, and low economic growth. There was a great deal of optimism for the improvement of the lives of young people when the new government took office in 2016. It seems this has not been the case and our youth are again dying in search of greener pastures.

In recent years, Gambia has been grappling with a pressing issue that affects its youthful population – illegal migration. The pursuit of a better life, opportunities, and the dream of escaping poverty have led many young Gambians to take perilous journeys in search of a brighter future.

For many young Gambians, illegal migration or “backway” appears to be the only pathway to escape poverty and unemployment, which are pressing issues in the country. The lure of finding employment, education, and economic stability in Europe, particularly in countries like Spain, Italy, and Germany, is a strong motivator. However, these journeys are fraught with danger, as they often involve risky boat crossings, human trafficking, and exploitation.

One of the main concerns surrounding illegal migration is the treacherous journey using the boats that many Gambian youth undertake. These journeys are often carried out without proper documentation, making them vulnerable to abuse, violence, and human rights violations. The Mediterranean Sea, known as one of the deadliest migration routes globally, has claimed numerous lives, with many Gambians among the victims. Additionally, illegal migrants may find themselves in human trafficking networks, where they face abuse, extortion, and dangerous living conditions.

The illegal migration of Gambian youth has substantial economic and social consequences for the country. The loss of the youth workforce through migration, often referred to as a “brain drain,” deprives Gambia of its future leaders, professionals, and labor force. This has a direct impact on the country’s development and economic growth. Moreover, the families left behind by the migrants face emotional and financial challenges.

The underlying issues that need to be addressed by The Government of The Gambia

-The Gambia government needs to understand the underlying factors that drive illegal migration, including economic hardship, political instability, conflict, lack of opportunities, and environmental factors. Addressing these root causes is essential to reducing migration pressures.

– The Government needs to come up with policies and initiatives that promote economic development and job creation within the country. A stronger local economy can reduce the incentive for people to seek opportunities abroad.

– The Importance of investing in education and skills training to empower citizens with the tools to access better job opportunities at home. Lowering the cost of university and Vocational Training centers like GTTI, GTMI, GHTI, so that it could be accessible by every young person.

– The significance of good governance, rule of law, and anti-corruption measures to create a more stable and secure environment. This can deter people from leaving due to governance, political instability, or corruption.

– Strengthening border security and law enforcement to deter illegal immigration and human trafficking. This should be done while respecting human rights and international agreements.

– launching information and awareness campaigns to educate citizens about the risks and challenges of illegal migration, as well as legal pathways for migration. This could be done by using the National Center for Civic Education (NCCE)

– Engaging in diplomatic efforts and bilateral agreements with destination countries to manage migration flows, protect the rights of migrants, and facilitate legal pathways for migration. The global governance on migration should be a priority for the Gambia Government in driving policies that will help make its deportation.

– Encourage policies and programs to support the reintegration of returning migrants into society and the economy. Many individuals who migrate and return face challenges, and support services can be beneficial.

**The Way Forward**

Ultimately, addressing illegal migration requires a combination of policies and actions that address its root causes, promote economic and social development, enhance border security, and protect the rights and well-being of all citizens, including potential migrants by creating Jobs and Livelihood.

Illegal migration remains a significant challenge for Gambian youth, but it is a complex issue with deep-rooted causes. The collaborative efforts of the government, civil society, and international organizations are essential in addressing this problem. Long-term solutions will require investments in education, job creation, and improved living conditions in Gambia, providing the youth with hope for a better future at home.

In the coming years, stakeholders must continue their commitment to finding solutions to the issues of illegal migration facing Gambian youth. Only through a multi-faceted approach can the country hope to provide its youth with alternatives to the perilous journey of illegal migration and secure a brighter future for all its citizens.

Baboucarr Nyang

Human Rights Activist

MSc Development Finance

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