Back way to Europe - is it a risk worth taking?

Thursday, October 23, 2014
It is with anxiety we received the news that Gambians were among about 100 migrants rescued last weekend on the coast of Italy.

We were anxious.What could have happened had it not been for the early intervention of Migrant Offshore Aid Station, who rescued them?

The 100 migrants including our Gambian brothers would have perished within few minutes, just as other hundreds and thousands of people who had taken their last breath while trying to cross the European coast to enter Europe.

In the past few months, there have been lots of bad news about Gambians trying to enter Europe illegally.

Several Gambians have departed this life on the journey.Still our youths seem undeterred; others are preparing to go.

We do not encourage the youths to take such journey, but we do not quickly condemn them for doing so.

There are more than 60,000 Gambian professionals who live and work abroad, according to the World Bank.

As the number of Gambians travelling to Europe and America, whether legally or illegally, increases their contribution to the global and national economy also increases.

The governor of the Central Bank has said remittances as a percentage of Gambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown over time from a mere about 3 to 4% in the 1990s to nearly 10% of GDP in 2011.

Monies from our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora have surpassed foreign direct investment as the biggest source of financial inflow.

The monies they send home have become one of the largest sources of foreign exchange for The Gambia.

The impact of remittances on the Gambian economy is huge bearing in mind that they are used to meet the living cost of hundreds of thousands of families; pay the school, medical and book bills of tens of thousands of children.

Remittances are also used to create a lot of jobs in the construction industry every year.

Can you imagine what life would have been for many Gambians had it not been for monies from their relatives in Europe and America?

It is true that some of them do not go to Europe or America illegally; but many of them did!Most of them overstay their welcome, and a lot of them entered with visas valid for less than a month or so.In the process prior to legalizing their stay, it could be said they are there illegally.

In such period, they are no different from a person who entered by land; they both have an illegal status in Europe or wherever they may be.

That said, we do not encourage the present trend of illegal migration because of the risks involved, particularly at this time that every now and then migrant-carrying boats mysteriously capsize, the cause of which our leaders have said must be investigated.

The question whether the risk involved in illegal migration is worth it or not, we will leave for another day.

However, we do not encourage it, but the other side of the coin is that remittances from success cases are contributing substantially to the development of our dear country.

“Illegal immigration can never be completely stopped, no matter how high the wall or how many patrol agents you have watching it.”

Gail Collins