By Olimatou Coker
The Gambia National Youth Service Scheme in collaboration with International Organisation for Migration, IOM Thursday held orientation for the first batch of Gambian backway returnees.
The ten-day event, organised at the President’s International Award in Bakau, was designed to enhance the returnees’ technical and vocational skills for a sustainable livelihood, easing their reintegration into the society.
It is being funded by the European Union through the IOM.
The executive director of NYSS , Emmanuel Mendy, said it was only through the NYSS – a satellite institution of national significance – where government crusade for practical youth development and empowerment is delivered to youth.
“We as a government has a moral duty and responsibility to care about our young people and address their issues of empowerment as a strategy for dealing with various problems affecting them, including youth poverty resulting from many demographic, economic and social factors.”
According to him , the project was intended to mitigate youth unemployment with a focus on returnee migrants, since over the past years a lot of youths have embarked on the back way with many getting trapped in Libya and other countries.
“The IOM being very supportive to The Gambia government and Gambians in general facilitated voluntary return,” Mendy added.
IOM rep Balla Musa Conateh said his organisation has always been committed to strengthening cooperation and coordination with the government both on national and regional levels, with a view to enhancing the overall protection framework and sustainable reintegration possibilities for returnees, and promoting effective awareness raising as well as social cohesion in The Gambia.
He postulated: “The Gambia government is making considerable efforts to receive and reintegrate Gambian returnees from the so-called “Back Way”, in particular along the central Mediterranean route for those returning from Niger and Libya since the beginning of 2017 under a project entitled EUTF-IOM initiative for migrant protection and reintegration.”
He said the orientation programme aims to expose these returnees to training opportunities within the TVET institutions in addition to leadership skills and good practices.
He added that they will also receive introductory lectures in all skills area including counseling, sexual and reproductive health, culture and tradition.
The PRO of NYSS, Adama Beyai, gave a brief background of the institution, and stated it has since establishment in 1996, trained over thousand youths.
“From 2017 to 2018, 350 young people have been trained here,” he disclosed.
Returnee Taslim Bah, spoke at the event on how he embarked on the perilous irregular journey to Europe in hopes of finding greener pastures.
Bah also relived his capture and subsequent “severe” torture by militant groups in Libya.
He thanked the IOM for helping facilitate their return.
He urged young people to learn from his misfortune and stay home and work for the betterment of themselves and The Gambia.
“I am also calling on IOM and the government to help us more because as I am speaking now my family is at home and I have nothing to give them. We need pocket money to stay peacefully here.”