Should we legislate illegal migration?


 These success stories serve as motivation for others to also join the bandwagon. It has now become common to hear of young girls also risking the high seas to go and pursue greener pastures! Well, my readers may think that I am somehow obsessed with the issue of travelling to Europe via the risky and highly perilous back way. That may actually be true, waw daf ma jaahal di. The truth is I can’t help it. For, luring as these success stories are, we must not forget the gory stories of drowning as well, or, for that matter the stories of those who are trapped in Libya and other strife prone parts of Africa when they are transiting through these to Europe.

Now, let us try to examine thoroughly the reason(s) why people risk their lives to reach the shores of Lampedusa or Spain. Why do young men do this seemingly illogical thing? It is true that the economic crisis has hit the world (and we are a part of that world) hard but is it reason enough to abandon your family in a venture that is most likely to end in your death? Funny thing is, it is said that it is very expensive to reach Europe through the back way. Rumour has it that one needs at least eighty to ninety thousand dalasi to be able to make the journey. Now, that is some real money…. Oops, at least for a poor teacher like me and those in my ilk. With that kind of money, I think rather than waste it on a journey without return one would be better off spending it on a business venture here at home instead. 

Truth be told, Europe is not as flushed as it used to be. Most of the people who leave our country and go to Europe find it a far cry from what they expected. I have seen a man in Oxford City operating a barber’s salon. I was informed that he used to be a branch manager of one of our local banks here. He went to England on a visitor’s visa and overstayed and thus his job as a barber! In Stockholm, Sweden I met another man who pulled me aside after a programme we attended and told me that he had been there for fifteen years. He said that initially he was fine because he had a good job and was doing well but that for the previous five years, he hadn’t been able to find a job. No job, no money, no way back to The Gambia. I am in no way saying that people should not go to Europe, but I think if you have to go, go the right way, wolla?


There is no denying that the country is hard but we have something that many others lack. In the few countries I have visited outside The Gambia, I have not seen people free enough to count money (cash) of up to ten thousand. The reason is that they are afraid that if they do that they may be robbed or even be killed in the process. They use credit cards instead. This reminds me of something I read in the newspapers last week announcing the death of the pen. In those countries, cash is dead; they use credit cards and other means instead. In The Gambia though, sometimes you see someone counting money of up to ten thousand or more in the street because it is safe here. I for one, would use such money to start a business, invest in something rather than seek to go back way. Let’s face it; no country on Earth has it all. Wherever one may go, you will find want and poverty, the only difference is in degree. 

What is the way forward? The solution to the problem of migration, legal or illegal, in my opinion, does not lie in legislation. We see that in Europe nowadays, most politicians focus their campaign on ending migration. That sucks! If they really don’t want people to migrate to their countries, then they have a moral duty to better the economic condition of the countries from which people migrate. To this end, it is also important to say that the solution to the problem is not in aid but in trade. We live in a global village; after all, so one crisis affects everyone. Equal opportunity and fair trade will go a long way in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. And I am not talking about individuals here, I am talking about nations.

It is the duty of the governments of Africa and other countries from which people regularly risk their lives to create a conducive environment for investment so that jobs will be created for the youths of their countries. It is unfortunate to see the extravagant waste of money that goes on in some African countries whilst their people are wallowing in abject poverty. It is common to hear in the news of African presidents buying private jets while the budget of the country will not be able to accommodate such lavish expenditure. As a result, some donor countries think twice before they give their monies to corrupt leaders who will put it in their pockets instead of spending it on the development of the country. In fact, this is the cause of some of the bloodiest conflicts of sub-Saharan Africa. Here, the case of the Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta (MEND) comes to mind. The central government was using the oil wealth which is largely deposited in the areas of the Niger Delta and completely ignoring the welfare of the people of their land. We have heard of the Shell oil company executive members living in mansions while the people around them live in abject poverty. This causes some of them to attack oil pipes so as to get their share of the national cake, as it were. The examples are so many that we can’t list all of them. 

Europe has woken up to the economic problem migration can cause them and as such has started formulating laws which will make it very difficult for someone to get into their countries. But the truth is, they have a moral duty to help the poor African and other backward countries to stand on their own feet. As has already been said, this will not be accomplished by aid and grants. It will only be achieved through the leveling of the playing field in trade and commerce. One can see the bias of the West in the fact that they always welcome people with skills into their countries but if someone has no skill that is marketable in Europe, then they will do everything to make sure you don’t leave your country or get into theirs. Mustn’t we wake up to this fallacy?


Musa Bah who also writes under the nom de plume Tha Scribbler, teaches English language at Nusrat Senior Secondary School and is the author of several books.