By Sheriffo Jarju
Family pressure leads to migration
In The Gambia, one includes mom, dad, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, tenants, and close friends into the family. When one talks about family, it is expected to be an extended one. People are into extended family because it helps solve labor force needed on a communal family farm. Cultural and religious beliefs also motivate people to engage in polygamy. Having a big family has caused more harm than good because it is difficult to provide basic family needs to all the members. Many parents believe that having too many children is like investing on long term fixed assets. This is because young boys are expected to take over the leadership role of a family from their father.
A household where there are 15 children to feed, cloth, educate, and shelter them will be a huge burden on the head of the household. Many struggle to provide these basic needs due to the poverty level within a family. Youths growing up under these economic hardships are filled with trauma on what to do in order to be able to help alleviate the family from the economic hardship.
The cultural norms and values have put pressure on young boys within the family to be the next bread winners. This frustrates the young boys because of their inability to contribute to the up keeping of the family due to lack of employment opportunities. Youths are taking this risky journey to Europe because of the pressure they face within the family. One wants to travel no matter what the consequences are in other to help improve the living conditions of the family. Jagne (2014) research reveals that, “Youths say that poverty is one of the main reasons of going and they do refer to the family ´s situation when they talk about poverty and mean that they are prepared to go on this journey to try to improve the family’s lives and living standard”.
The opportunity cost of these youths who travel to Europe illegally is their small earning jobs they have in The Gambia. These jobs pay little or no money monthly which makes it difficult in the upkeeping of the family. The anonymous illegal immigrant discussed his experiences, “There are so many of us in my family, one bag of rice lasts only a week. In The Gambia, we were going nowhere. I had to come to make my family strong, to pay school fees for my brothers, because my father is getting old and he can’t work as much.” (cited in Hamid, 2015). As the eldest son, it is expected of you to be able to help finance your siblings’ daily needs including education.
Peer pressure also leads to migration
The tranquility and peace in the country have added more value to the way people mingle and share ideas for a better tomorrow especially among youths. There has been self-competition among the youthful generation of the smiling coast of Africa, The Gambia. The youths discuss among themselves about what life can offer to them and how can they mitigate it and be successful. Whatever is available to one’s neighbor, as a youth, you are under pressure to do whatever it takes to be able to provide it to your family to thwart envy and jealousy between the two families. Jagne (2014) research revealed that, “The Facebook pictures that people post show their wellbeing and once they have crossed to Italy it is seen as a success. They are all well dressed and as the man says the pictures are taken in nice places and they look very happy, which makes the people who did not yet go want to go.” Youths are enticed or put under pressure by their peers in a sense they only share with other aspiring illegal immigrants the good part of the journey, and leaving out the most dangerous part of it: the long drive journey through the dessert that can take up to 5 days from Niger to Libya.
The dream of every young Gambian is to travel outside the country because of the economic hardship sweeping the length and breadth of the country. Sitting at their daily corner camps, youths engaged themselves discussions about how sweet life in Europe can offer even without being there. They know almost all the names of the European countries that offer easy asylum to immigrants. One might think that with all the risk associated with illegal immigration through the Mediterranean Sea, a peer will send clear advice to deter friends from taking the journey, but they rather put more pressure on their peers telling them how good life is in Europe. The very first thing a successful illegal immigrant do is to post nice pictures with very attractive backgrounds to entice their friends back home.
Hunt (2016) revealed that, “Migrants in Europe are reluctant to share news of their desperate circumstances for fear of being seen as failures, especially by their families, who often make large financial sacrifices to get them there.” Social media is more commonly used to suggest they are living the high life. The bittersweet of what life in Europe is, is never shared with peers back home. Daley (2011) reports that, “From the road, their encampments look like igloos tucked among the trees. Up close, the squalor is clear. Piles of garbage and flies are everywhere. Old clothes, stiff from dirt and rain, hang from branches.” Thinking that life in Europe is sweet, one might be having a day dream. In fact, coming to Europe illegally has made life so unpleasant and traumatizing to immigrants above their imagination. The living conditions of these immigrants are unimaginable.
High unemployment rate and poverty increases migration rate
The Gambia is blessed with a youthful population which many countries such as; Taiwan, Germany, and China are yearning to have. But making this youthful population happy by providing employment opportunities is a big concern to the government due to lack of new companies or businesses. Creating jobs to close the high rate of unemployment and to reduce the poverty level is a big burden on the shoulders of the government. Countries like Saudi Arabia where unemployment rate is low, and poverty level is reduced due to natural resources like crude oil, is the opposite to The Gambia; the country has no natural resources to depend on to curb the unemployment rate and reduce the level of poverty.
The country which is known for her good hospitality is witnessing her youths leaving that smile in search of better socioeconomic opportunity elsewhere. These youths are fed up with the government, and they see illegal migration as the only way to engage themselves to earn a better living. According to Kebbeh (2013), “The Gambian government’s inability to restore economic stability — including rectifying high unemployment especially among youth — has resulted in increased emigration among all segments of the population”. The high rate of unemployment is the direct correlation to the high level of poverty. Everyday youths spend the whole day loitering within their neighborhood without being productive. Although many of these youths have completed their education, they wasted time at the ghettos or camps because of lack of avenues to make a better living standard. They are desperately seated hoping that a job will knock on their doors one day. Some are distressed and fed up in their search for job opportunities.
Advantages and opportunities
Even though illegal migration is deadly, those who are lucky to cross through the perilous route to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea contributed immensely to the Gross Domestic Production of The Gambia by sending large amounts of foreign currencies. “According to International Monetary Fund (I.M.F) estimates, incoming remittances for The Gambia in 2010 were $90.7 million while outgoing remittances were reported at $33.3 million. This is equivalent to 10.1 percent and 3.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), respectively. Estimates of incoming remittances for 2007-11 averaged $81.3 million annually. However, these figures do not include the likely very large amount of money transferred through unofficial channels”, says Kebbeh (2013).
Successfully completing the journey provides financial advantages to an immigrant due to the strong exchange rate of the Euro, Pounds Sterling to The Gambian Dalasi, and numerous job opportunities at their disposal. It is every youth’s dream to be successful so that the level of poverty within the family can be reduced. This prompted youths to look elsewhere in search of better job opportunities. It is seen by the youths as the only solution to poverty eradication: traveling to Europe, which puts one in a situation where earning a better living is accessible. Those who are successfully established in Europe earning better paid jobs, do send large sums of cash as remittances. Remittance is another way of reducing or eradicating poverty from a household or a family in The Gambia. The money received is shared within the household of the immigrant. The large amount of cash flow within the family due to the high exchange rate of foreign currencies against the Gambian Dalasi, are invested into businesses by business oriented families that lead to the establishment of new employment opportunities for those left behind.
Solutions to curb the migration
Whatever bad situation one finds oneself, there are solutions available to combat those situations. Solving the illegal migration among Gambian youths has been a center of discussion in and out of the country. Illegal immigration is on the lips of every Gambian, and the most worrying issue with it, is how the government can help in tackling this menace. It is part of every government’s blueprint to create abundant job opportunities for the citizens especially the youths. To maintain the development agendas of a government, youths are key because they are the future leaders. Protecting the most vulnerable of the population, youths, the government needs to work toward putting up a mechanism that will help to create jobs to prevent youths traveling through the desert to Libya to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.
Engaging the youths in making a living will work towards thwarting them from taking up this deadly journey. The created jobs will also lead to poverty reduction. Government should also create avenues that will give chances to other stakeholders to add their quota in job creation to complement the government’s blueprint. Sustaining job creation, the government should also introduce tax benefits to those businesses who work toward creating more employment opportunities. Implementing these highlighted solutions for the government will make illegal migration a thing of the past.
The high illiteracy rate pushes more youths into taking the fatal journey to Europe. Even though lack of employment opportunities is high in the country, there are quite number of illegal immigrants who took the journey because of lack of basic and secondary education. The population has witnessed many dropouts at the expense of lack of financial supports. Many young people saw traveling as the only option. They are not ready to go back to school to learn new skills and knowledge. Sending youths back to school will add more weight toward reducing the high rate of illegal migration. Educating the young people of the country will improve the literacy rate of mother Gambia. This will lead to self-empowerment. Taking the initiative to go back to school by the youths, will help in reducing the high rate of illegal immigrants coming from The Gambia to Europe.
Motherly love cannot be measured by any means because mothers love their children more than one can imagine. If a mother knows that putting pressure on her child to engage on a deadly journey that can take the life of her son, she will never allow her son to do so. Parents are not well informed about the consequences of illegal immigration to Europe, therefore they should be educated or informed about the dangers associated with illegal migration. Many parents cry foul about the poor state of the family to their eldest male child leaving the child in hopeless thoughts. Holding parental education about the dangers of illegal migration will lead the way in reducing the high rate of illegal migration. Knowing the negative consequences of the journey will make parents to be more protective of their male child.
In conclusion, the research shows captivating insights about why youths go against all odds and travel like swarm of bees crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. The lost youthful general detailed key issues that prompted youths to leave The Gambia in search of a better socioeconomic, and good living standards. The research revealed different issues such as; family pressure, peer pressure, high unemployment rate, and poverty, that motivate youths to take on this dangerous journey. On the other hand, completing the journey successfully gives financial benefit to the country in term of remittances and to the family of those migrants. This research paper and others coming in the near future will add more insight in answering the question why Gambian youths chose to travel to Europe using this hazardous journey, and what can be done to finally put an end to the treacherous journey.
This paper was prepared for English Composition 112, taught by Professor Koch
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