By Olimatou Coker
The National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) on Tuesday concluded week-long round-table talks with returnee migrants and opinion leaders across the country on migrants reintegration and support at Banjul City Council.
The round-table talks with the theme: promoting dialogue among stakeholders on migrants reintegration to foster social cohesion was funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) through the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.
Almost 280 participants (opinion leaders such as chiefs, allkallolu and Ward Councillors, youths and returnee migrants) in all the seven administrative regions of the Gambia benefited from the talks aimed at creating a platform for both opinion leaders and returnee migrants to be enlighten and exchange ideas on migrant re-integration programs in the country and how to be involve in the re-integration support programs.
In the past few years, The Gambia through International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) and other programmes have been receiving back many of her citizens who left for Europe through the irregular journey called “the back way”.
Irregular and forced migration has led destination countries to launch assisted return, re-admission, and deportation programmes for rejected workers in irregular status. In many cases, migrant returnees are found to face both social and economic challenges after returning to The Gambia.
Therefore, the return of migrants and their reintegration has received increasing emphasis in the light of perceived stigmatization and security challenges poses to The Gambia.
Ousman Bah, civic education officer at NCCE said returnee migrant workers bring back new skills and knowledge and international exposure, adding that these migrant returnees can be the social and economic change agents in their household, community and at the national level if systematic policies and procedures are in place at the national level to ensure the successful reintegration of migrant workers into purposeful employment or self-employment, taking full advantage of their new knowledge and skills.
Mr Bah added that most of these returnees are faced up with a lot of challenges from their communities, ranging from discrimination; lack of job opportunities to lack of psychological support.
He noted that these challenges faced by returnees can be addressed through meaningful dialogues and well-structured social integration (social cohesion) plans, that suits the stakeholders involved in migration issues, starting from the family level to the central government and international bodies concern.
“Building social cohesion in our communities, through dialogue with returnees and the stakeholders’ concerns, is a great move to support local governments build strong, socially cohesive communities in which returnees can easily settle down and be valuable assets in their communities,” he stated.
Isatou Njie in deputizing for the Mayor of Banjul welcomed the initiative taken by NCCE and partners. She encouraged youth to not give up and continue perusing their dreams wherever they find themselves. She told returnees that returning to the Gambia does not mean they have failed, saying they can make it in The Gambia.
She described young people as the engine for any nation’s development who should be supported and encouraged.
Baboucarr Nyang, youth representative said in most cases young people venture into the ‘back way’ in search of greener pasture. He cautioned young people not to be carried away by photos friends post on social media once they reach Europe, saying most of the time what they portray on social media is not the reality on the ground as they do not own cars or live in houses they take photos next to.