May 13, 2014, 10:27 AM
5-day intensive training on guidance and counseling for youth on returnees
management wrapped recently at the Bwiam ChildFund Lodge in Foni Kansala
District, West Coast Region.
The training was part of the collective efforts of the Gambia Government and its development partners to tackle irregular youth migration.
It was also to accelerate the collective efforts to re-integrate voluntary returnees back to the Gambian society.
The counseling training was organised by the Gambia National Youth Council (NYC) in collaboration with the Gambia Immigration Department (GID).
It was supported by the Gambia Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), a four-year initiative implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in partnership with the Gambia Government and funded by the European Union.
The training of the youth counsellors served as a kick-off for a pilot programme to offer counseling for returning migrants supported by the YEP project.
The counseling programme included orientation of the returnees on the economic opportunities, skills development programmes and support mechanisms available in The Gambia and an assessment of interests, skill sets and needs for possible linkages with service providers.
Unfavourable economic conditions, high rates of unemployment as well as difficult political conditions over the recent years have compelled young Gambians to migrate through Libya and the Mediterranean Sea to Italy in search of better livelihood.
According to the recent International Organization on Migration (IMO) report on Gambia, it has been estimated that more than 25,000 Gambian irregular migrants are languishing in refugee camps in Italy jobless.
Majority of these youths have faced serious conditions during their stay in Libya waiting to pass through to Italy.
As a response to the call by the Gambian Community in Libya, The Gambia Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are working closely with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to assist stranded young Gambians to return home.
According to statistics of the Gambia Immigration Department, there have recently been more than a thousand youths repatriated, and more are expected to arrive soon.
The training brought together 25 youth counsellors representing youth groups from regions across the country and stakeholders dealing with youth on irregular migration issues in the country.
Training sessions were conducted by seasoned experts from WHO Gambia, the Gambia Immigration Department, University of the Gambia, the Gambia Red Cross Society and the Network against Gender-based Violence.
Participants took part in an aptitude assessment and were trained on techniques and ethics of guidance and counseling. The training topics included crisis situation management, psychological distress and depression management, psychological first aid (PFA) and crisis event simulation.
Jawara Cham, Chief Inspector of the Gambia Immigration Department, addressed the participants and noted that some of the core factors of youth irregular migration to Europe are poverty, limited job opportunities, peer influence and family pressure, as well as the mindset of youth that life is only possible in the West.
‘’Let us educate and sensitize youngsters in our various communities to understand that one can make a good living in The Gambia,’’ Mr Cham challenged the youth leaders.
The lead facilitator of the training, Dawda Samba, Country Facilitator of the Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Program at the WHO Gambia Office, said The Gambia should not only be a country that receives its own citizens but should be prepared to re-integrate these citizens into the communities.
“It should be our collective responsibility to guide, counsel and help rebuild the lives of our fellow young people who returned,” he went on.
Explaining that some of the migrants have faced untold physical, social and emotional trauma in transit and in the host countries, which may cause invisible mental scars, which could also extend to their families.
The Gambia Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) is a four-year project aims to support youth employment and entrepreneurship in the country to address the economic root causes of irregular migration from The Gambia.
It is funded by the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund for Africa with a total budget of EUR 11 million.
By improving the employability of youth, especially potential and returning migrants, increasing income opportunities along value chains and helping young entrepreneurs to connect to trade and tap into the digital economy, this project aims to change the current migration trends and contribute to building the long-term growth and economic competitiveness of The Gambia.
The International Trade Centre (ITC) is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. The organization’s aim is for businesses in developing countries to become more competitive in global markets, speeding up economic development and contributing to the achievement of the United Nations Global Goals for sustainable development.
The European Union’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa addresses the root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa. More specifically, it helps address the root causes of destabilization, forced displacement and irregular migration by promoting economic and equal opportunities, strengthening security, development and resilience of vulnerable people.