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EU ambassador expresses condolence to relatives of Dec. 4th ‘backway’ victims

Mar 9, 2020, 11:39 AM | Article By: Yunus S Saliu

Recalling the tragedy off the coast of Mauritania last year in December where over 60 young people from Gambia and neighburing countries died in a capsized boat on their way to Europe through ‘backway’, the EU ambassador to The Gambia has expressed his sincere condolences to all those who had unfortunately lost a loved one in the mishap.

Addressing December 4 2019 (D4.19) Association of Survivors & Victim Families at the just concluded second edition of Niumi Barra Fort Bullen Festival on Friday, 28 February, in Barra, Attila Lajos said the tragedy has pushed many people to think of many questions.

“The tragedy pushed many of us to reflect on many questions (which include) how could this be happening in the New Gambia? Who has been complicit and enabling such tragedy to happen? And most importantly – what needs to be done to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again?” Ambassador Lajos rhetorically asked.

The ambassador noted that with EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the EU is supporting 5 projects to the tune of 2.1 billion dalasis (37.9 million Euros).

With the support of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, he said, “many Gambia men and women have returned home safely from Libya and Niger, and more than 3,000 have received support to reintegrate into their communities and many efforts have been made to build a clearer understanding of what really happens along the backway journey.”

Recently, he went on, the project has provided psycho-social sessions aimed at providing psycho-social support to returnees from the communities of Essau, Barra and Medina Serrign Mass.

Other four projects being implemented under the Tekki Fii umbrella are provision of training and employment opportunities for young Gambian men and women. “These projects are being implemented in the North Bank Region. Examples are rebuilding the youth centre in Farafenni, 19 small businesses in NBR received YEP mini-grants and 4 other business benefitted from YEP mini-loans,” he disclosed.

In addition to the above, EU-IOM Joint Initiative implementing partners are supporting agricultural employment in the region, such as in neighboring Buniadu with the construction of garden walls, support to 104 women working in the vegetable garden through agricultural inputs and tools.

Dilating on the Niumi Fort Bullen Festival, he described cultural heritage as an important component of economic development even “more so in The Gambia due to its links with the tourism sector.”

He said further that the Heritage Festival can help to preserve and promote cultural heritage of The Gambia. And it “can certainly support the repositioning of The Gambia on the tourism map, from a winter sun destination to a year-round, diversified destination rich with creative experiences and cultural adventures,” he noted.

The EU ambassador also affirmed the European Union’s values of creative industries in The Gambia under its development support, as the EU-funded Youth Empowerment Project has already provided substantial support to different creative sectors of the economy. These among others include traditional crafts, cultural heritage such as the Kankurang through the revival of the Janjangbureh Kankurang Festival.