Jobless, restless and frustrated, 24-year-old Saikou Jammeh persuaded his father to sell the family home and give up his life savings to pay for the journey from Gambia to Europe.
Jammeh saw no future for himself in Gambia, a tiny impoverished country on West Africa’s coast, so he joined an exodus of young men willing to sacrifice everything to leave.
But after being robbed, beaten, and locked in a Libyan prison for several months, Jammeh found himself back where he started – in Gambia with no job prospects and empty pockets.
“I felt abandoned by the government,” he said on a busy street in Churchill’s Town, a suburb of the capital Banjul.
“I was just sitting, wondering what to do.”
Thousands of thwarted migrants like Jammeh are returning to Gambia, straining its fledgling government as officials scramble to get European-funded reintegration projects up and running.
President Adama Barrow took office a year ago, ending former leader Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years of autocratic rule, and is under pressure to deliver on promises of sweeping economic reforms.
Nearly 2,500 Gambians were flown home by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) last year, most pulled out of prisons in Libya after reports emerged of Africans being sold in slave markets in the lawless country, the U.N. agency said.
The returnees are a noticeable presence in the nation of 2 million, posing a bigger threat to stability than in other West African countries wrestling with migration, experts said.
“We are not ready to receive all these people,” said Bulli Dibba, permanent secretary of Gambia’s interior ministry.
“We are very much concerned for domestic security,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
In November, a group of newly-returned migrants threw rocks at the IOM offices because they were unhappy with the support they had received, according to IOM spokeswoman Florence Kim.
“The government is already struggling to deal with unemployment,” added Dibba, a veteran Gambian civil servant. “If we have more people coming in, what will we do with them?”[Source: Reuters]