The meeting seeks to create avenue for safe reintegration of returnee migrants and support. The event held on the theme;“promoting dialogue among stakeholders for safe migrant reintegration to foster social cohesion’, was funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) through the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.
The nationwide outreach attracted about 280 people including opinion leaders i.e. Chiefs, Alkalolu and Ward Councilors, youths and migrant returnees from all the seven administrative regions of The Gambia. The meetings was aimed at creating a platform for both opinion leaders and returnee migrants to be enlightened and exchange ideas on migrant safe re-integration programmes and how to be involved in the re-integration support programmes.
In the past, The Gambia through International Organisation for Migration (IOM) assisted the voluntary safe returned and reintegration (AVRR).
Ousman Bah, Civic Education Officer at NCCE revealed that migrant workers bring back new skills and knowledge and international exposure. He noted that they could be the social and economic change agents in their households, community and at the national level ‘if systematic policies and procedures are in place at the national level to ensure their successful reintegration.
This, he added, would enable them get exposure to gainful employment or self-employment, taking full advantage of their new knowledge and skills.
He informed that most of these returnees face a lot of challenges from their communities, ranging from discrimination, lack of job opportunities to psychological support.
These challenges faced by returnees, he added, could be addressed through meaningful dialogues and well-structured social integration (social cohesion) plans, that suits the stakeholders involved in migration issues, starting from the family level to the central government and international bodies concerned.
“Building social cohesion in our communities, through dialogue with returnees and stakeholders' concerned is a great move in supporting local governments build strong and socially cohesive communities in which returnees can easily settle down and be valuable assets in their communities,” he stated.
Deputizing for the Mayor of Banjul City Council, Isatou Njie, welcomed the initiative taken by NCCE and partners.
She however, encouraged youth to not give up and continue pursuing their dreams wherever they find themselves. She reminded returnees that returning to The Gambia does not mean they have failed, saying they can still make it in The Gambia.
She described young people as the engine for any nation’s growth, whom she said, should be supported and encouraged.
Baboucarr Nyang, a youth representative stated that in most cases young people venture into the ‘back way’ in search of greener pasture.
He cautioned young people not to be carried away by photos of friends shared on social media once they reach Europe. Most of the time, what they portray on social media is not the reality on the ground, as they do not own cars or live in houses they take photos next to.