Friday, September 24, 2010

“The Gambia Government is Not Anti-Emigration” – VP

Government Discouraging Youths from Embarking On Perilous Sea Journeys

VOL:1 ISSN:14 The Vice President of The Gambia has stated that the Government of The Gambia is not anti-emigration, but for the love and concern on the welfare of the people, the government condemns and will continue to condemn youths that take illegal and dangerous means to migrate.

Dr.Isatou Njie Saidy made this remark at the launching of the United Nation Development Programme 2009 Global Human Development Report on Migration, at the Kairaba Beach Hotel recently.

According to her, the Government of The Gambia is ever mindful of the immense social and political responsibilities that it owes to the people, in particular the youths folk who constitute the most excited group when it come to migration, both internally and beyond our national borders.

“The government is doing all it can to live up to the reality and would forever remain committed to creating the best possible environment that would encourage youths to get access to the opportunities that they dread the dangerous waters, deserts and bushes in search of greener pastures,” she said.

In terms of our economic growth, she said: “The Gambia has been able to stay within the safe levels of the region’s average despite the current global economic crisis. An important source of growth and poverty reduction is the relatively large volume of remittances from Gambians in the Diaspora.”

She said that these remittances accounted for 10 per cent of per capita consumption in 2006, although in the wake of the global crisis, it dropped to about six per cent in 2008. For Sub-Saharan Africa, she said that remittances represent 3.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product and these statistics confirm the fact that the benefits of migration to countries of origin and also the destination cannot be ignored.

However, she argued that there are downsides for developing countries where skilled professionals such as nurses, doctors, engineers etc leave our part of the world and are absorbed by developed countries.

“This trend warrants a closer study and a collaborative venture to create the best condition for the retention of the scarce skilled labour,” she suggested.

According to her, Sub-Saharan Africa is hard hit, having one of the highest tertiary migration rates from as low as 34 per cent for Ghana to 54 per cent for Mozambique.

She also highlighted the plight of the relatively large unskilled labour, which are faced with hostile migration laws in their new destinations, where laws and policies largely disregard the rights of migrants to decency, dignity and respect.

“The Report, which provides rich insight into the plights of migrants and suggests the reduction or simplification of restrictions on the mobility of people, would be met with wider approval as a useful reference to chart better migration practices,” she said optimistically.

She pointed out that the report is full of strong messages about a world that has become and is increasingly becoming unequal; a world where most people believe that living their abode could be the best option and sometimes the only solution.

“Such people are often forced by political, economic and social circumstances into thinking that newer destinations offer the greatest opportunities for political freedom, better work and living conditions, as well as enhanced prospects for self-realisation and participation,” she observed.

According to her, the report features the challenges they face and must live to further reflect on ways that migration can touch people’s lives and how governments could open new frontiers and policy for safer mobility in the enhancement of human development.

The report also calls for deeper and stronger international collaboration to address the restrictions on the movement of people from within and across borders and measures that can improve every prospect that a migrant on the move foresees to gain in his or her place of destination.

The UNDP Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative, Ms Chinwe Dike said that movement is often a household’s strategy to diversify income; and gains from migration extend beyond improving the well-being of migrants and their families.

According to her, remittances provide a good source of foreign exchange earnings relative to other sources of income and benefit not only the recipient relatives of migrants but societies as a whole. These gains manifest in different ways beyond improved income but in improved health, education and empowerment. “Migration enhances child survival be it rural urban or across international borders,” she said.

She noted that 37 per cent of global migration is from developing to developed countries, however, irrespective of the high levels of attention given to emigration from Africa to Europe, only three per cent of Africans live in a country different from place of origin and less than one percent of Africans live in Europe.

“Most migration occurs within countries in the same category of development, for instance, migration within ECOWAS region or within Africa itself,” she said.

She went into history, citing that this kind of migration within Africa dates back 4000 years ago when the Bantus moved from West Africa to another parts of Africa in search of better livelihoods.

In the last decade the West Africa regions has experienced migration of refugees from one country to another due to armed conflict and civil strife and have received protection in neighboring countries where they have sought refugee.

The Gambia has been host to Senegalese from the Casamance Region, Sierra Leonean, Liberians, and Bissau Guineans among others.

The most important in the African region, is rural-urban migration which accounts for the continent’s overpopulated cities. The most common concern relates to pressure on urban areas- especially the growth of slum or squatter settlements.

The Minister of Interior, Hon. Ousman Sonko noted that there is an emerging consensus that migration and development reinforces each other, as migrants contribute to the socio-economic development of both the countries of origin and destination, adding value to the cultural and demographic patterns of such countries.

However, he admitted that migrants are often confronted with restrictive immigration polices especially in destination countries. Low-killed migrants often face the brunt of these restrictions, despite the demand for their labour in many developed countries.

He said: “We all agree that illegal or better still irregular migration is undesirable and unacceptable given the toll on human lives associated with this form of migration. But we must also agree that the prohibitive and sometimes cumbersome immigration procedures coupled with other restrictions and barriers to human mobility in destination countries fuel the incidence of these illegal or irregular adventures especially among the youths.”

“We are convinced that restrictions and barriers on human mobility can only serve to delay the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals - a commitment to which all countries of the United Nations subscribes to,” he argued

According to him, several interventions and initiatives have been undertaken recently in the area of institutional strengthening, capacity development, entrepreneurial and technical skills training for Gambian youth, who are the targets and victims of illegal scams. The logistical support received on behalf of the security services have gone a long way to helping the government to monitor the trends and address issues of irregular migration as evidenced by the significant drop in the incidents of reported cases.

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