Nov 6, 2009, 1:27 PM
After spending tens of thousands of dalasis both on tangible and intangible things to prepare for their trip to Europe, many Gambians, mainly those unskilled and uneducated, are surprised that they could hardly even sustain their metabolism in Paris without begging.
Our Italy correspondent, who is currently on a study in Paris, said the condition of many Gambians in France or at least in Paris – specifically those at the Paris airport and the on streets in Paris – is not the best.
Most of them do not even have a decent accommodation and could not afford a decent meal.
Bubacarr Fadera had two of his father’s compounds and two cows sold for reaching Europe. He offered three white sheep and a goat to marabouts to spiritually facilitate his journey.
Bubacarr, who is found begging at the airport in Paris, said he and many other Gambians live through begging the Whites and other African brothers for their survival.
He said he was in Italy for three years and later decided to leave for Paris, but “things are still not improving for me”. He said he has been struggling to pay back the investment done on him, to enter Europe, but he has no hope of achieving that anytime sooner.
The number of beggars at Paris airport is alarming but many are sub-Saharan Africans. The airport staff said a lot of them (beggars) spend their lives at the airport “telling lies” even to those who knew them.
An African-French man described the beggars as shame to Africa and to any clean human being. “They dirty the places and do not follow any rules or regulations.”
A colleague of Mr Fadera lamented: “I have nothing and have spent the last wealth of my family to Europe.”
A Gambian in his mid 40s said: “I do not want to be identified here (in France) because my people must have thought I am dead by now. I travelled around five countries including France in 20 years. I have not contacted my family in The Gambia for the last 17 years. So I am sure they might think I am dead by now, but I am living. Many of us do what we do because there is no other alternative.”
The man said he started begging at the Paris airport for a flight to go home, but now he is counting 17 years in the activity.
Apparently, the streets of Paris seemingly favour Gambian boys. “We can smoke, urinate, beg and do what we want here without paying anything. The only thing is we risk being arrested and, at worse, imprisoned by the police; but that is when they catch us. What else can we do without a house or job,” a group of Gambian boys in the street of Paris said.
The majority of Gambians in Paris, at least those at the airport and in the streets, could not come back, simply because they do not even have the cost of a one-way ticket to Banjul.
A lot more intentionally do not want to come back, because they are reluctant to come back to face their families empty-handed.