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City of Banjul
Monday, September 25, 2023

Oh, no! Not again!

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With Aisha Jallow

The Mediterranean Sea was once the dream for holidaymakers all over the world: beautiful photos of blue waters, yellow sand, nice hotels along the beaches and promises of enjoyment. Catalogues were printed and the travel agencies showed them to their customers, tempting them to book a vacation, spending their hard-earned money somewhere abroad. Nowadays we find all the information we need online, the tempting photos are there, the information about the destinations is there too, so if we can afford it, we just have to pick and choose a destination.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it, until reality strikes you. And this time I am not thinking of the cost of the vacation. My thoughts are with the hundreds of immigrants who have lost their lives in the turbulent waves of the Mediterranean Sea. Desperate people take desperate measures to find a new and better life far away from home. More and more of these refugees of poverty travel with their children. As a mother, I can’t imagine the stress and fear someone feels when they make the decision to leave their home and everything they have ever known. Imagine the months, weeks and days before they leave their homes. Imagine looking at your well-known surroundings for the last time. Imagine seeing your parents and friends for the last time. Imagine saying goodnight to your mum, but what you really wanted to say was: “I am leaving you and I don’t know if I will ever see you again”.

You wanted to ask your mum to pray for you and your kids, but you don’t want to worry her in advance, so you sneak out of your house in the middle of the night. You are so determined to leave. You are unable to think of anything else. You have heard stories about people who made it; who arrived safely in Europe and who are making a living there. You have heard about sons sending money to their elderly parents so they can buy a ram for Tobaski. You don’t know how much the sons have to suffer to be able to send that money. They will not tell you, as they are ashamed of their living conditions and the low wages they get. The boys with no education and no skills are too many and the opportunities for them are too few.

You have also heard stories of those who never arrived in Europe; those who disappeared, whose lives are lost in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. You fear that fate. You fear it will be yours, but you force those thoughts out of your mind and try to focus on the bright future the guys told you about. The guys who told you about the ways of getting out of your misery, the guys who blew dust in your eyes and who took your money so they could make “preparations” for your journey. More than a hundred years ago, the same kind of “guys” came to Sweden to tell people to migrate to America. That was the land of opportunities, where you could have your own land, build your own farm and make money like grass.

Nothing was told about the danger on the sea, the overloaded boats where so many died from diseases that spread like wildfire. Nothing was told about the indigenous people who didn’t appreciate white people going there, claiming the land was theirs. The white people took what they wanted and answered every complaint with a bullet from their guns. It is still written in the American Constitution that you have the right to defend yourself and your family with weapons. This seems to be a right they will never give up in America. It doesn’t matter for them that times have changed since their constitution was written about 300 years ago. It doesn’t seem to matter that there are more guns than citizens in America and that too many people die every day because of the so-called rights to bear weapons.

Life was not easy for the migrants in America. They didn’t know the language, they didn’t know how to survive. Most of them were farmers, and that is what they wanted to keep on doing in America. They had to travel far into the country, on foot, carrying what little they managed to carry. The children who were old enough to walk were suffering, walking miles every day. Starvation, diseases, violence and extreme hard work was the fate that awaited most of the migrants. The land was vast and the strong could become rich, but they had to fight for it. The ones who survived the journey over the seas didn’t write home to tell the truth. They told what the people at home wanted to hear; that they were managing well and that all was good.

Some days ago, a fishing vessel packed with around 750 people on board, sank and most of the people on board drowned. Only 77 passengers survived! There were around 100 children on board on the vessel. The women and children were under deck and didn’t have the slightest chance to get up from there when the vessel began to sink. They drowned like rats in a bucket of water. Their lives meant as little for those who arranged for their shipping as rats. There is one photo taken of the vessel, while it was on its way to Italy and on this photo it could be seen that the whole ship was overloaded with people. The ship was a sailing coffin on its way to bury the passengers in the waters.

It has become harder to flee from Africa to Europe as the borders are closed. The waters are controlled so the ships are forced to take longer and more dangerous routes to Europe. We can play the blame game as much as we want, but to end this problem we must look at both sides of it. For humanitarian reasons, European countries must help refugees to survive if they are in trouble at sea. Those who manage to get to Europe safely suffered so much so they are allowed to stay there. That is one side of the problem. The other side is just as complex.

Africa is a continent full of natural resources. It is also a continent filled with mostly young people who are strong and creative. African countries are ruled by mostly old people; mainly very old people who cling to power in every way possible.

The resources have been blinding the African leaders and made them unable to see the suffering of their own people. They live so far away from common people so they don’t see or hear their problems. The worst thing is that they don’t seem to care about their own people! Only in times of election do African leaders leave their palaces, shake some hands, give some speeches, make some promises they never intend to keep and then go back to the safety of their palaces again. As long as African leaders don’t give a rat’s ass about their own people, refugees will keep on drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. When will this change? Only God knows, but it seems as He has turned His head away from you all.

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