IOM The Gambia
I left the country in late 2015. I was going to school at the time, attending the tenth grade. With a big family to provide for, my father could not pay for the fees for all of us. Life was not easy.
I left The Gambia via Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and then to Libya. I spent a long time on the backway journey. It took me about a year and three months before I could reach Tripoli. I had to work along the journey to pay for my transit from one country to another, because I did not have enough money. When I arrived in Libya, I stayed over six months in the city of Tripoli. On the journey, I experienced a lot: hunger, sleeplessness, ill treatment. Honestly, I didn’t know about all these risks before departure.
When I returned, I went back to tailoring. This is what I was doing before departure. I was earning something at the end of the day, and I was proud of this. My mom, dad and some of my friends were really excited to see me again – and to see me alive. This proved to be the most important thing for me. Through my reintegration assistance, I was provided with sewing machines. The proceeds from the sewing allow me to financially support my family and myself.
As a returnee, I did not actually expect everyone to welcome me with open arms. As I anticipated, some people were looking at me as if I had failed.
Now that I returned, I will never embark on the journey again. What I went through has taught me a lesson.
Now that we have faced COVID-19 this year, it has affected my business a lot. Before the pandemic, business was booming. There were lots of events and ceremonies. People were always buying new clothes and I had a lot of customers. I used to make a lot of money, which I used to pay for my rent, provide for my family and myself. Now, I have very little or almost no customers, and I am making very little income.
As a young tailor, it has been crucial to safeguard my business. I tried to make t-shirts to sell them, but that has not been very lucrative as tailoring. Nonetheless, this is also better than not earning anything at all.
Recently, around last year, I started doing music. Prior to this, I always had a passion for it. I did a song with my friends. We were motivated by our successful participation in a skills training programme at YMCA. I did another collaboration song with my fellow Migrants as Messengers (MaM) volunteers. The song is called ‘No to Stigma’, and in the song we talk about the need to come together as one and fight the coronavirus.
Watch the clip with the song created by three Migrants as Messengers volunteers in The Gambia here
Abass’ 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.