I was a tailor before embarking on the backway journey in February 2014, when I was only 27 years old. It wasn’t easy for me here because I was struggling to make ends meet. That’s why I decided to leave The Gambia for Europe.
During the six years I was stranded in Algeria, I made three attempts to cross the Mediterranean but there was no way to cross the sea. For this reason, in 2016, I decided to start working in a construction company to support my family back home, since the dream of going to Europe was over for me.
Upon my return in 2020, I attended a training in business management and entrepreneurship, and I received a sewing machine and other tailoring tools. I thank God that I came back alive with new skills and knowledge. Luckily for me, my family welcomed me warmly and encouraged me to continue my life because I am still young. They knew it wasn't easy for me and that many lost their lives on the backway, so they organized gatherings to cheer me up.
Nonetheless, many of my fellow returnees who have returned home need psychosocial support, because we witnessed terrible incidents during our journeys. Stigma and discrimination contribute greatly to the mental wellbeing of returnees. Some people in my community called me a failure for not being able to reach Europe, comparing me to others who have succeeded the journey. I don't have the heart I had before I left – sometimes I prefer to ignore things and close my ears and eyes when I face those type of difficulties in life. Some need more time and support than others to reintegrate into society. Everyone deserves to be mentally well and receive the support they need, especially returnees.
Today, I have four persons working under my supervision and I have become their role model. So, I have to be strong and responsible, because my wellbeing could affect theirs. In the next two years, I would like to become independent in my career. My mission is to expand my tailoring business and appear in television competitions and festival booths to display my products.
Mustapha’s reintegration assistance was supported by the European Union's Emergency Trust Fund
for Africa through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.