Samba Jatta, 32, was living a life in the darkest shadows as an irregular migrant worker in Libya. His wish was to enter Europe and begin a new lease of life but now, he is back in Gambia and happily doing business.
The motive of his journey lies in his frustrating situation back home, his courage to live a better life and the ardent desire to be celebrated in his community like his friends who made it to Europe and now driving expensive cars around town.
He endured a lot of pain and trauma on the way. “While in the Libyan capital, I went to prison seven times. Many a times, I was hired to work and in the end, they denied me my pay. I also suffered serious beating by criminals and security officers. The experience I had is the worst I ever had”, he lamented. These horrible experiences left Samba thinking about home. He realized that such treatments can only be meted on him in a foreign land as an irregular migrant. “I was desperate to come home,” he recalled.
Samba's story is not an unfamiliar one. At the end of 2018 more than 3,500 irregular migrants who were on their way to Europe voluntarily returned from Libya and other transit countries. For many like him, this was a traumatizing experience, as they had to leave their dreams behind and struggled to reintegrate back into the daily struggle for survival.
However, Samba was lucky. Soon after he returned to The Gambia, he received an in-kind assistance to start a business venture. Of course there are challenges Samba has to grapple with – above all having to make new clients and expand. But, with the need for more fresh and fast food in the settlement where he trades - Fajikunda, about 13 kilometers from the capital Banjul-, business is good for him. His fast-growing business has provided a safer alternative to irregular migration and using his story, Samba wants to inspire others to realize that not all that glitters is gold.
IOM, with the support received from the European Union, helped Samba to return back home from Libya and gave him an in-kind support in February 2018 to start a new business and chase his Gambian dream.
He started with a restaurant and now has a small farm where he does mix-farming.
“The support from IOM helped me a lot. I was able to get drinks for the bar and restaurant. I bought groundnut, cassava and maize seeds for my farm; four goat, two sheep and chicks for my poultry”, he added. Luckily, Samba is also a beneficiary of the Youth Empowerment Project’s numerous entrepreneurship trainings set out for young people. “I can say that I’m doing well now. The training encouraged me into livestock production. It built my capacity and the knowledge is of great importance to me”, Samba, said.
The Gambia Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) addresses the economic root causes of irregular migration by supporting youth employment and entrepreneurship. The three-year project started in January 2017 and is funded by the European Union in the frame of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.