Youth Matter: The untold story
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Last week's devastating Libya boat disaster, as shocking as it might be, did not seem to have come as a surprise at all.
That is itself the surprising thing about the whole scenario. Society, it appears, has become so increasingly indifferent about the thorny issue of illegal migration that we have become altogether muted, much to the delight of boat owners persistently involved in the illegal trade of shipping people to their death. The effort of the Gambia government though is conspicuously unquestionable, given the emphasis it attaches to not only empowering the youth, but also enabling them make beneficial use of their empowerment.
Unfortunately, despite all the opportunities being provided by government for the youth folks, there are this ill informed few out there who would defy wisdom, and the result is the likes of what we heard of or saw last week. Information emerging from some quarters indicates a higher death toll among Gambians than was first thought. But would this serve as a deterrent for any of the youths out there who might now be planning for the next trip? Hardly so.
One man with an untold story, Lamin SK Sanyang, thinks it is time that something definite is done. Ironically, this gentleman, until recently, had been desperate about going to Europe, regardless of the route taken. But his experience within the past few weeks has been tortuous, so much so that it has dampen his taste for wealth. Lamin does not think anymore that it worths taking that route. He is desperate to see that something is done to rescue a large number of Gambians he said are languishing in jails in the North African country of Libya.
The point is that this is not the first time we have heard of or seen people die at sea after boarding floating coffins they call boats, and headed towards the Atlantic. The excuse has always been poverty and unemployment, yet those who embark on this venture are hardly from poor background. There is hardly any research done on the illegal scheme in The Gambia - not what I am aware of - but the fact remains that it costs, on average, D30, 000 to board one of these boats - quite a luxurious business for the apathetic boat owners.
You begin to wonder what the brother or the father of a potential victim, so to speak, thinks they might be opting for when they take the decision of spending that kind of capital on their relative to engage in such perilous journeys.
Lamin Sayang just returned from Libya where he had spent 5 months fruitlessly trying to get across to Italy. He was among a group of people who, a few weeks ago, boarded a boat heading from Libya to Italy. Their boat, having developed some problems, was forced to return to Libya. Another week later, against the advice of some of his colleagues, he decided to board another boat heading for Italy. This time round they were unfortunate (or do we call it fortunate?) to get caught by Libyan police. According to Lamin, he spent a good number of days in prison, preventing him from being part of the next boat that was to leave for Italy. But this boat, Lamin would later learn, would capsize at sea, claiming the lives of a number of his friends.
Not only is he devastated by the lose of his friends, and shaken by his imagination of him being part of that boat disaster; if he had not been caught and locked up in jail, but the young man has grown frustrated by the thought of what ''Africans are going through in North Africa.'' Lamin's stay in Libyan prison gave him a dreadful insight into how Gambians and other citizens (Africans) are treated there. ''There are many Gambians in jail in Tripoli, Bengazi, Sabakh and in the Sahara, some of whom have been in detention for more than two years with insufficient food, not even court hearing," he said, and added, "life is not as we take it to be out there.'' Lamin use the opportunity to call on Gambia government to intervene, saying that there are so many Gambians out there in Libya who would want to come back home, but they do not have the means, with most of them either incarcerated, or simply do not have the money to return.
Those who might be nursing the thought of going, think twice. Life is way, way better for you here than taking either to sea or the desert. This is a message from someone who has seen and felt it.
Author: By Kemo Cham