The story of Muhammed Sankareh
I returned from Libya in 2018 after attempting the irregular route to Italy in July 2014, so I am a survivor of the backway journey. Upon return, it was difficult to avoid all the negative comments the community made about me, as everyone mocked me and called me a failure. To avoid stress and to safeguard my mental wellbeing, I decided to be involved in music, which is entertaining and helps you free your mind.
It was very important for me to take part in this community bantaba organized by Migrants as Messengers (MaM) in Basse, The Gambia. As a returnee, I was looking forward to sharing my testimony through the discussions on migration, since I have experienced the challenges that migrants face through the backway journey. In particular, I was interested in talking about stigma and discrimination that migrants face in their communities and in sharing my reintegration story.
I also learned many things during the discussions with the MaM Volunteers, who explained to us new things, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Before attending this event, I didn’t know that if you have the ECOWAS biometric identity card or passport, you can travel to any of the sixteen member countries.
However, the theme I found most interesting during the bantaba was on women taking the backway. From one of the female returnees who shared her story, I learned about the difficulties that women go through when embarking on the journey to other countries. As I once embarked on the same journey, I was not fully aware about the conditions for a female migrant – I think that all the stress, discrimination and harassment they have to deal with during the journey is more than what men are suffering.
Another returnee participating in the bantaba told me that he never knew about local opportunities available in The Gambia before leaving. Some of the returnees who came from the backway received reintegration assistance, but there is a world of opportunities out there. Some of the returnees I know are now engaged in gardening, poultry, animal husbandry, tailoring and welding. I am an artist, but I am also into welding.
In our communities, we should always encourage and motivate returnees to seek job opportunities. If youth are earning something in their own country, they will be less prone to migrate to the backway journey, and they would not experience all the hardship we faced along the way.
This interview was conducted by Madou Ceesay, a Migrants as Messengers Volunteer in The Gambia.