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National dialogue on irregular migration starts today

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By Alagie Manneh

As the migration crisis in the country escalates, the government and partners will, beginning today, organise a two-day national dialogue on the matter.

The Gambia is one of the countries mostly affected by the illegal migration phenomenon with a mass exodus of youths from the country to Europe. More than five thousand Gambians died or went missing on the journey between 2014 and 2018 alone, according to the International Organization for Migration. 

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The dialogue, called the National Consensus on Migration Intervention seeks to “establish a frank national conversation on the migration phenomenon with a “whole of government” and a “whole of society” approach in mind.”

Government officials, including other stakeholders such as political parties, IOM, German Development Cooperation (GIZ), Gambia Immigration Department (GID), the academia, migration focal points, returnees, youth organisations amongst a host of other stakeholders will deliberate will discuss and deliberate over the issues underpinning the crises and chart a way out. 

“The sheer magnitude of this issue demands our attention, cooperation, and collective will to forge a path towards a safer and more secure future for our citizens,” Musa Camara, the director of diaspora and migration affairs at the foreign ministry, told The Standard ahead of the convergence.  

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He also stressed the urgency of the gathering, describing the phenomenon as “an alarming reality”.

“Irregular migration has claimed the lives of many of our youth, leaving families shattered and communities in mourning. It is an alarming reality that calls for a united response. Our objective is clear – to bring together stakeholders working tirelessly with our youth and on migration, to openly discuss best practices, challenges, and most importantly, to forge a national framework for comprehensive migration intervention, one that not only addresses the immediate crisis but also caters to the growing demand for youth empowerment,” Mr Camara said.

A Germany-based migration activist, Yahya Sonko, who had long called for such dialogues, welcomed the initiative, and urged the authorities to ensure that ideas and recommendations from the gathering are implemented to the letter.

“Otherwise, the gathering will be meaningless and it will become one of those money-seeking ventures that tend to make institutions look good, but not the people they were supposed to serve,” he said.

He said a critical element of the crisis surrounds the return and reintegration of deportees, most of whom continue to struggle to adjust to life back in The Gambia.

“This year alone, The Gambia has received an estimated six hundred deportees or more. Therefore, if they are looking for a solution, they should look at those categories of people. And if you take a broader view, from 2017 to date, we have received more than one thousand deportees. So, if you are calling for a dialogue, it should start with those people who are struggling in The Gambia because those are the same youths that are taking the ‘backway’ journey again to reach Europe,” Mr Sonko said. 

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