DANGERS AND STORIES OF THE BACKWAY JOURNEY
By Musa Saho:
The illegal migration of youths from the continent of Africa to Europe in search of what others called ‘better opportunity and other commentators referring it as a potential suicide mission. The journey full of misery and agony which often starts from the valleys of West Africa to the sandy deserts of North Africa and later to Europe famously referred to as back way. This unfortunate journey is not something new as it has been in operation for more than a decade and it has had numerous successful stories and tragedies as well.
Meanwhile, before going further, we will closely look into the probable reasons that forces these young able men and women to venture into this perilous routes to Europe. After a psychological study and a conversations with youths, I came to realise that the following reasons are the motivating factors behind this menace and will discuss it in subsequent write up.
The mega cause of youth’s migration is because of poverty and lack of better opportunities as youths in this country has no hope and see no future for themselves in their homeland. It’s a prevalent notion that, no youth can prosper immensely here unless you travel beyond the borders of this nation. This ideology was formulated because of the existing bad system and social injustice permeating the four corners of the Gambia.
Furthermore, as youths and graduate population increases, the government is busy looting and engaging in corruption malpractices, living conditions deteriorated, dependency and poverty intensified as unemployment and other opportunities becomes a rare commodity. Frustrations and desperation became the order of day further forcing youths to find other alternative means for survival. In real situations, these are people with hopes and ambitions who are fed up with the system and enthusiastic to change the status quo of their existence not even putting into consideration the risks that lies ahead of them.
The second reason for this deadly voyage is the dictatorship regime of Yahya Jammeh the then president of the second republic of the Gambia. During his military rule the economy and social cohesion suffers a great deal as living costs and prices of basic commodities went high. Also the economy deteriorated making living difficult for average Gambian coupled with miserable and oppressive tactics employed by Jammeh’s regime to silence dissidents. Majority of Gambian were living in constant fear and agony as the regime kills, tortures and incarcerate anyone who stood up to them. These are the realities at the time and as the saying goes ‘Desperate times demands desperate measures ‘.Therefore, these youths took what they believe to be the last option available which is to take the horrific journey as impunity continues to be rained on their innocent souls. Because they believe, the journey will not only help them escape the brutality and oppression of Jammeh’s dictatorship government but probably present better opportunities to live a more meaningful and dignify life.
The final reason that enticed youths to venture the journey is social ideology, the successful stories of their counterparts and appetite for luxury .The social ideology that no one can achieve mega success unless one travel to a foreign land is a motivating factor, because they thinks that this continent harbours in her belly the worst corrupt system in the world.
Moreover, the prosperity and success some back way boys were fortunate to achieved further motivate others to take route perhaps they might also be lucky to taste the success their counterparts enjoys.
However, some venture the route only to live in an ostentatious lifestyle, coming and going just for a name and not contributing their fortune to anything worthwhile other than engaging in flamboyant lifestyle. Unfortunately, some unguided youths became impressed with that which became their reason to take the journey.
HORRORS OF BACK WAY
The journey that Gambians back way adventurers’ venture which often takes months or even years to reach the coast of Europe mainly commence from the dilapidated roads of the Gambia through to Senegal and across West African nations and square all around to North Africa and subsequently to Europe is a voyage unimaginable horrors and tribulations. It’s a route of prevalent human right abuses and exploitation according eye witnesses. It’s is a journey of hell for those with less pocket money and money making season for rebels and kidnappers. These rebels emerges often from war torn nations with fragile security or nations without central government such as Libya .The back way dwellers became victims of torture and wealth spot accumulation for criminals who mostly kidnap and demand money or risk of been beaten, jailed or even be killed.
The fortunate ones (the victims whose families has the financial power) were lucky to have escaped the brutalities and inhuman treatments upon payment of the ransom.
However, the unfortunates (the victims whose families are poor and couldn’t pay the ransom requested) became victims of unthinkable horrors and starvation. Moreover, some were incarcerated and prisons conditions were deplorable as inmates crowded with less ventilation which further culminated to the death of some prisoners due to suffocation. According to the inmate, I once had a conversation with explained his experience labelling it as heart breaking. He lamented how he was captured by kidnappers in Libya and they demanded money that he can’t afford to pay and which ultimately resulted to his imprisonment. In agony, he talks about the condition of the foods served as he paused for a while and described it as a tasteless food which neither satisfy them nor quench their hunger.
Furthermore, he stated that, the inmates were subjected to immense inhuman treatments most especially the female counterparts who were often raped, abused or enslaved at the hands of this bunch of criminals and bandits
According to him, he was in jail for 5 months enduring unfathomable pains and hunger until him and his fellow inmates planned and efficiently executed their escape from the grips of this savages.
In addition, with their weak and malnourished bodies sails through the sandy desert to Tripoli where they escaped to safety and he later contacted his family (whose haven’t heard from him for several months) and later explained his situation and where about. The family then consulted one another and flopped enough cash to assist him to take care of himself and also pay for boat fare that will sail him through the Mediterranean then to Italy. Fortunately for him, he used the money well which made all the difference.
Meanwhile, he lamented the condition of an object-like ship or you can even call it a plastic and wouldn’t be wrong was used to sailed them through the deep and dense ocean of the Mediterranean.
Hence, their only aspiration and concern was to reach Europe, they became uncared of their lives and ready to use anything that might help them to get to what others referred to as ‘dreamland’. According to his narration, the so called boat was terrible and luckily for them the Italian’s coast guards came to their rescue. Currently, he is in Europe waiting for his asylum request to be granted, so he can be able acquire the legal status, find job and help himself and the family back home.
These are the realities of the back way journey and I asked how he feels about it and his answers were if he knew earlier on, he wouldn’t have ventured or even recommended it to anyone.
In nutshell, as Africans we have to be willing and act selfless to take charge of our own affairs and well being or else our brothers and sisters will continuously be subjected to aforementioned horrors and brutalities.
By: Musa Saho
Musa Saho is a Bachelor's degree holder in Media and Communication from University of Malaysia and currently lives in The Gambia.