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Sunday, July 21, 2024

The dilemma of an immigrant

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By Mustapha ‘Paragon’ Sonko

Speaking and writing are useful abilities, but listening and learning are much more crucial. As a student, understanding migration concerns requires both learning and travelling.

Moving to Sweden, the Land of the Vikings, was like a dream come true. Well, that’s if I had such a dream. When I received the Swedish Institute scholarship, several thoughts struck my imagination. Perhaps I wasn’t optimistic about life in Europe since I had conversations with cool dudes while I worked at the National Youth Council as a Migration Officer. Most interestingly, being admitted into the International Migration program in Sweden, I wanted to grasp the dynamics revolving around immigrants and the native population. I reside in Malmö, a city of immigration with roughly one-third of its residents born in another country. It is the third-largest city in Sweden, after Stockholm and Gothenburg.

With poverty on the rise, unemployment at its peak, and some gun violence between various gangs, Malmö was at one time considered the rape capital of Europe. As a migration student, I have developed a huge interest in discovering whether what we hear or see on social media is real. I was told that Europe is the land of milk and honey, and I also heard that Sweden was about to host a sex tournament for the first time. I wanted to ask, “Is FIFA coordinating the tournament?” In my small head, I understand that sex is a form of exercise, if you like to call it sports, but performing at a tournament level was astonishing. It taught me one thing: yes, the word “Casanova” is also called “players” in the Meridian dictionary.

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As a young man in Gambia, I have witnessed many debates on these topics. Many firmly believe that Sweden has a lot of concubines, call them side-chicks if you like, who engage in horizontal exercises and vanish. What I eventually learned was more fascinating.

Gun violence made Malmö’s Rosengård area seem dangerous. To understand this better, I used a so-called ethnographic method to unearth the facts. I travelled to this place on numerous occasions and realized that the stories are somewhat exaggerated, and life is relatively normal. I have student friends from my university living in student accommodation in this “dangerous” Rosengård. This does not mean that it is all cool and dandy in the area. The problem with Sweden is that the government has failed to integrate immigrants into society. I still can’t grasp why there exists white flight in certain parts of Stockholm and Malmö, and this has made it difficult for immigrants to integrate.

But that’s not my concern today. The status of immigrants in Sweden and Europe is a complex issue. The truth is, there is money in Europe, and this is why our youth risk everything to get to the dreamland. Others will spend years at Senegambia or Bakau beach to find one “toubab” (European) spouse to facilitate their journey; we call it a marriage of convenience. Many have built mansions from here, and many are also building. But there is more to this, and the truth is hardly told to young folks back home. This article is not meant to do so, as I do not have an interest in dissuading people from migrating. As a student of migration, I am totally against any laws that restrict free movement. It’s nonsense to stop people from migrating; I believe migration should be encouraged and deportation reconsidered.

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How Europeans weaponize deportation is rubbish, and our government needs competent and serious people in the foreign service who can debate this issue. Deportation is a political process, and you need diplomats who understand this discursive process and can sit with the EU and make their case effectively. I am not insinuating that our government can stop deportation, no. They can’t; countries have the right to deport people based on their laws. The Gambia also deports people; in fact, we even deport other Africans. Several times, Gambians have pushed the government to deport criminals as they are a menace in the country. Yet, the same Gambians will be out at Westfield and on social media speaking against deportation without trying to find out why they are being deported from Germany. Where is social justice and the love for humanity if we only support the expulsion of foreigners from our country and refuse the deportation of our own from abroad?

Our government receives support from the EU to help finance development and craft good policies. The millions of Euros that our government receives from the EU make it difficult for our government to say no to deportation, in simple terms. The government believes that foreign aid is important for the development of the country; this is something I will contest later. The citizens, on the other hand, don’t care about the government’s claims because, to them, remittances are the alpha and the omega of their sustenance. I need not give statistics on how remittances shape the lives of ordinary Gambians compared to foreign aid, which mostly ends up in the pockets of some corrupt and callous government officials. Remittances go straight into the hands of the beneficiaries, while foreign aid will be “minimanaying” in the government offices, funding study tours, buying vehicles, organizing workshops, and other unnecessary logistics. Before the actual work is done, half of the aid has gone into the wallets of some folks. So why on earth would citizens give a damn about the ramifications of the government refusing deportation?

No Global South country presidential candidate or opposition party will ever support deportation. All the politicians in Gambia speak against the deportation of our Gambian brothers from Europe. We must also know that Europe is taken over by anti-immigrant parties, known as populist parties. No candidate in Europe speaks against deportation; many of the parties in Europe are in favor of stringent laws against migration. Support immigration in Europe, and you are out of government. Encourage deportation in Africa, and you are out of government. This is the dilemma of our generation. My PhD friend Omar would refer to this as the politicization of migration.

Do you realize that Nigerians with their oil are coming to The Gambia to hustle? What about the Senegalese? What about the Guineans who start a business on a plate and end up running big shops? What are they doing right that we are doing wrong?

Let’s get this clear: even if the Europeans build walls and return people, they can’t stop migration because migration is as old as history itself.

When next we meet, we will discuss racism and the difficulties in finding jobs in Europe. I will also delve into my encounter with the police in Sweden. While I was at the Malmö Central Station, something interesting happened.

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