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Friday, January 22, 2021

Gambia leads in migrant arrivals in Italy this year

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The Gambia last year came out fifth among a host of leading countries of origin for migrants living in refugee camps in Italy.

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“…during the first quarter of 2015, a relatively slow period with just 10,165 arrivals — The Gambia was the leading country of origin, accounting for 1,413 of the migrants,” the New York Times reported.

“Migration statistics offer a hint of the shift. More than 170,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Italy by sea last year; Syrians and Eritreans were the two largest groups among them, accounting for more than 76,000 people, according to Italy’s Interior Ministry. Gambians ranked a distant fifth.”

Reports said authorities have not published figures for April yet, but humanitarian and migration groups confirm that majority of the arriving migrants came originally from sub-Saharan African countries.

“We see that even people who had originally moved to Libya with the intention to remain there — including both refugees and migrants — have now decided to flee toward Europe, even though it means risking their lives in a very dangerous journey at sea,” Matteo de Bellis, the Italy representative for Amnesty International, said in an email to New York Times.

Bruce Leimsidor, an expert on Europe’s asylum system, said a certain amount of skepticism should be applied, because migrants may make such claims in the hope that it will help their requests for asylum in Europe.

Mohammed Njie, a 31-year old Gambian said he left the country seven months ago after a dispute with his boss over unpaid wages. He made his way to Libya, hoping to send money back to his parents and two children, following in the footsteps of older generations of Gambians who worked in Libya and returned home with nest eggs.

“They could buy homes, buy a car,” he said. “They could live a better life.”

Njie and other African migrants at the detention centre said there was rampant abuse in Libya. He said the construction bosses had stopped paying wages to labourers, and other men who did get their pay said they were preyed upon by criminal gangs, including marauding teenagers who robbed people at gunpoint.

 “I want to work,” said Mr Njie, the Gambian. “I left my family behind, so I want to work. And I want to find peace of mind.”

 Meanwhile, a Gambian girl who has experienced the horrors of the Mediterranean Sea voyage has penned a letter begging migrants not to attempt the sea crossing that she survived, but which killed her family and hundreds of others in a recent string of tragedies.

“Many people have died, my best friends and my sisters and my brothers have died in the wave to come to Italy,” wrote the 12-year-old girl in a letter released last Wednesday.

“What I can say is only to tell you people who want to come don’t come please, my brothers and sisters, because (it) is hard to say goodbye,” added the girl, who asked for the letter be made public.

The child arrived April 14 in Reggio de Calabre in southern Italy with the 150 survivors of a shipwreck which is thought to have killed 400 migrants.

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