Almost every other week, we hear of people dying in the high seas to Europe! Sometimes it is Libya, other times it is Italy; and sometimes other parts of Europe. It is disheartening to note that many Gambians have lost their lives trying to reach the shores of Europe. It is almost incomprehensible to see young energetic men and women leave their countries for Europe knowing full well that when they reach there they are mostly put in camps like prisoners.
What causes people to risk everything, including their very lives, just to reach Europe? Certainly not all those who reach – or leave for – Europe are refugees running away from strife back home. Some of them are economic migrants because life in their country has become so expensive to the point of being unbearable.
The fact that the European countries refuse to give visas to prospective migrants, and the fact that they have declared these as illegals; and that they have made it almost impossible to even use the seas to reach there has made it so risky, but interestingly, more enticing! So people find all means – legal and illegal – the latter foolhardily, to reach the shores of Europe in order to get greener pastures.
In our case, as we know for a fact that our people are leaving and dying on these terrible journeys not because of strife but because of the economic hardship and the lack of viable jobs, is a first step to remedy the situation. Once the source and root of a problem is identified it makes it that much easier to solve it.
Our government should therefore look into ways to provide the youth with something to do here at home instead of risking their precious lives in the high seas. Just dismissing the problem as impatience of the youth is an oversimplification of the matter. It is very complex and should be studied with care before certain pronouncements are made. Secondly, just urging the youth to come home and develop their country will not solve the problem either.
There must be a programme, a plan, a roadmap of reintegrating these youth when they come home. There must be something to make them want to stay here rather than risk their lives in these dangerous oceans.
For the short term, government should engage our development partners to set up plans and map out ways to provide employment to our people. This is also in the interest of the West as they are seeking ways to reduce the number of people who are migrating to their countries as this is stretching their economies. Thus if there are good plans, they will be willing to collaborate with us to find a solution.