IOM The Gambia
“I don’t think about the backway anymore. I just want to work and make my kids, my wife and my parents proud.”
When I left The Gambia in March 2015, I didn’t tell anyone— not even my wife. I was worried it would bring a lot of confusion in the family. I was working as a tailor before I left, but things weren’t going well. I had two kids to support and my parents depended on me. The responsibility was too much on my plate. I had only reached Tambacounda, Senegal, when I was left with no money.
I had to call my family, who were not happy with the decision I made. I asked them to sell the two machines I left behind, from which they were able to raise GMD 8,000 (approximately USD 160) for me to get to Agadez, Niger. In Niger, I worked as a tailor in order to take care of my basic needs and raise more money to proceed to Libya. After a month, I made GMD 4,000 (approximately USD 80) and continued my journey.
In Libya, I could not work as a tailor; the only thing I could do was work as a laborer. I was sent to prison three times—the first two from checkpoints where I could not pay the money demanded; the third after being caught by the Libyan Coast Guard trying to cross to Italy.
My third time in prison was the worst, because we weren’t given enough food and water and I was physically abused. Luckily, a friend who was working in Libya came to my rescue and paid up to GMD 50,000 (approximately USD 1,000) for my release.
After four years of futile attempts to reach Europe, there was no reason for me to continue living in Libya. I could not do anything for myself, nor my family back home. I decided to make my way back to The Gambia by land, and when I reached Agadez, I heard that IOM is assisting people to return home.
On 8 October 2018, I finally came back home. With my reintegration assistance, I bought machines and established a tailoring shop in Basse, my hometown. People around the neighbourhood are very supportive. I can’t really complain, though I hope to expand my business in the future with more machines and bring young people on board to work for me. If young people are meaningfully engaged, then irregular migration will be a thing of the past.