Gunjur beach is unlocked for yet another major fishing season, and the community is experiencing an unprecedented arrival of temporary economic migrants for fishing and related activities. Undeniably, I am of the view that the coming of temporary migrant workers is contributing toward our local economy. It is worth thinking about the possible consequences associated with this which may require extra measures and obligations from both the residents and the migrants in the community. Thus, this article is urging the residents in the community to exercise caution in fulfilling their duties in maintaining a safer community for everyone.
What inspired me to write this short article is that late one evening, as I was embarking on my routine exercise at Gunjur beach, I saw a group of young people as they approached me, and they were speaking a language which I struggled to understand. At first, I thought they were speaking ‘Wollof’ but later I noticed that it was not, despite my ‘Wollof’ not being good, I can still grasp some. I suddenly realized that they were speaking ‘Susu’, one of the popular and widely spoken local languages in Guinea Conakry.
The coastal town of Gunjur, like many other towns and villages along the coastline particularly the major fish landings centers and communities including Tanji, Brufut, and Sanyang, have a good track record of hosting temporary migrants mainly from the sub-region. My community of Gunjur has maintained a long-standing history of not only accommodating the temporary migrants, but also rapidly integrating them in the community. The social inclusion of the temporary migrants in the community led to positive outcomes for some migrants and their host families in the community. For example, the participation of these migrants in community related activities, particularly in sports, was high in the early 1990s and you did not struggle to spot migrant players in some of the successful football clubs in the community.
Throwback to 1992-1993 I can remember the existence of famous Ghanaian football teams in the community. The team comprised of only Ghanaian migrants residing in Gunjur at the time. The famous names that I still remember in that team include but are not limited to famous super star Atto, Kojoh and Kwame commonly known as ‘Be a Man’ because of the elegant style of playing football, who rapidly generated a huge fan base for the team. Their fan base had almost twice as many fans compared to several average local teams in the community. This is just one of the several pieces of evidence that the community of Gunjur had early contact with the foreign migrants as the town made its unique mark in the history of this lovely nation for welcoming migrants. Certainly, the town was one of the safest places for easy settlement for many migrants from the subregion.
Recent trends have shown that the integration of migrants into the community is increasing because of inter-marriages between the migrants and the residents, which has increased sharply over the past decades. This is one of several factors that further strengthen ties. These people who have become integrated in the community are now local Gungurians as well, just from a different origin.
Because of its unique location, the hospitality of the local people, super easy settlement for migrants with affordable housing rent, food as well as the already blessed fishing landing center the community of Gunjur is still a hot spot for many migrants. So, the town continues to attract and welcome migrants from the sub-region, especially during the current fishing peak.
As Gunjurians’ we have a lot to celebrate and I am always proud that we have the Atlantic Ocean in my community which not only provides us with fresh fish, employment opportunities and economic and related engagements for the locals but also our famous sand-mosque which also attracts thousands of players from the sub-region. Although my obsession with having an ocean in my community is unique, it differs from the obsession that the Sanyangs, Ceesays and the Camaras have. For them, it is purely because of the fish that they are enjoying from the ocean.
With the recent significant influx of temporary migrants following the arrival of the fish meal factory in the community, is there anything that needs to be done better? As the beach is re-opened for major fishing activities of course a situation which is expected to last for another few months, the town is witnessing a high influx of migrants mainly from the sub-region, including Senegal, Mali, Guinea Conakry, and Sierra-Leone and they are engaging in fishing and related activities in the community.
It is a fact that the economic and related benefits of these temporary economic migrants cannot be ignored, and I am fully aware that their presence has created multiple temporary employment opportunities, not only for those working in the fishing industry, but also those renting houses, petty-traders, as well as for those in the transport industry as most of the taxi drivers confirmed to me that they usually doubled their income-earning when the temporary migrants are in the community.
Notwithstanding, we also cannot underestimate the importance of maintaining peace and security to ensure that the community is safe for everyone, and this is paramount. Meaning we need to be more curious and willingly take responsibility for ensuring that we maintain a peaceful community and do our best to mitigate any possible security threats. Therefore, this article suggests that as the high influx of migrants in the community is happening rapidly, residents and their visitors both have a role to play toward creating a safe community for everyone.
I am fully aware that the mandate of the police is to protect lives and properties but assisting them to carry out this mandate more effectively will require the residents to be law-abiding to improve our internal security. The article suggests some recommendations that can mitigate potential crimes and related activities in the community.
Residents, particularly those that are renting out their houses, premises, or apartments to the temporary migrants should be more vigilant to ensure that they know the people that they are hosting. Firstly, by making additional efforts to make sure that the tenants have security clearance and related vetting from the immigration department as well as having a valid resident permit to stay in the community. I know that this may sound hostile for some residents as we are always generous to the foreign workers but again helping, harboring, and housing undocumented migrants to live or occupy your houses or premises itself is a crime and you may endanger your own life, the lives of your loved ones and the wider community.
Community policing is another suggestion this article recommends, please I am not suggesting that you should take the law into your own hands as you must know your limitations. But to be more vigilant and supportive to the local police department including timely reporting of crimes and related activities in the community is another way that we can create a safer environment for everyone.
I understand that some of the local women residents are very generous as some cook and launder for the temporary migrants in the community but maybe you want to be a bit careful about sending your children to migrants houses alone, particularly girls. By doing so you may potentially put your child at risk, again I am not suggesting that this is happening since I have no solid evidence. As we all know, child abuse including rapes, harassment and related activities are rampant elsewhere. Parents or guardians of you may want to take extra measures to protect your children.
Additionally for parents or guardians, particularly those that are also sending their teenagers particularly the female child to sell items such as bananas, oranges, groundnuts, please you should totally discourage sending your kids to isolated houses or apartments or locations where male migrants are occupying or staying. I have a different view on this as elsewhere it is considered child labor. Please, I have to say sorry if this is offensive but again if you cannot stop sending them, please ask your children to sell in a public place to minimize the risks.
Additionally, as a resident you want to equip yourself with an understanding of the local immigration laws, policies and procedures for hosting or housing a foreign migrant in the country. You may equally ask people or contact the nearest migration station for more advice on this.
As a migrant friendly community, the town of Gunjur is known for hosting and accommodating migrants from diverse backgrounds from the sub region. In conclusion I will suggest that it would be prudent that we the residents are more willing and consider taking additional responsibilities and to be more curious in fulfilling our obligations as citizens. Together we can create a secure and safer community for ourselves, our loved ones, and the migrants (Chapter two is coming shortly)
Mr. Buba K. Touray
Programme Director – BE REEL Gambia
Editors note: Views expressed herein are those of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Gunjuronline.com. Got an opinion article for publication? send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org