Gone were the days of mass exodus of African youth to Europe where uncertainty greeted. Like all countries of the continent, Gambia was’t unaffected. Most who dared the journey succeeded in crossing but some too perished at high seas and their agonies are still moaned years even after their demise.
Seedy Khan is one of those survivors to reach destination Europe but with a tale of woe to tell. Most youth in The Gambia made the voyage to seek pastures new. However, in Seedy’s case, impunity triggered his exit to escape from the dictatorship of Jammeh.
From fancy tales he heard from early goers who went on to become successful, he had envisioned Europe as a place his dream needed to rely on to turn reality.
“Well to tell you the fact, I was thinking like ” buying a ticket in Banjul then bum! Straight to Libya and then from Libya, you just gonna pay your fee to Libya and that’s it! Bum Europe,” he said laughing, on reflection and in admission of this naivety.
“But I guess that was just a dream before the journey because I know that if people know exactly what happens in this journey, no one will risk his or her life for the sake of Europe. But I guess it’s just my destiny and I have to take the route no matter what,” he tells Gambia News.
Footing the bill for this dangerous enterprise costs an arm and a leg by Gambian Standards. Stories of families auctioning off lands to fund relatives’ back way journey only to return devastated or die are not uncommon. For those who passed this phase one of the trip -bill-footing – there is that chapter two to cross over -Libya to be concise. Rendered ungovernable by separatists battling for supremacy, it was a hot spot for people-smuggling boats waiting for the likes of Seedy to pay up and get cruised off to Italy. However, the Gambian experienced no such thing and counts himself lucky to have glided through without incidents in Tripoli, Libya’s administrative capital.
“Well that’s right! Libya is a hell but the fact is I don’t really experience such things since my stay in Libya. I would say I was just lucky that I didn’t experience such barbaric things in Libya. I spent nothing more than two months in Tripoli and of course I don’t know exactly how much it cost for the fee! I only know that they paid for me and I have to move to Italy,” he continued.
Third chapter of this route is crossing the waves to touch down in Italy’s shores. Boats have capsized killing if not million Africans Gambians included. Gambia’s female national team goalkeeper Fatim Jawara, wrestler Mille Franc, who both died in sea wreaks, linger in mind.
For Saidykhan, it took twenty-four hours for their boat to reach Italy but catastrophe marred final segment of the trip when migrant occupants made a momentary surge towards the Taiwan Nordana Seaport who’d offered to rescue them, causing a consequential imbalance leaving at least twenty people dead by drowning.
Harping, he states: “Of course it was a big shock! Before, we were rescued by the Taiwan Nordana Seaport we had a small problem with our boat and when the Taiwanese decided to help us, some of us misbehaved and that led to the catastrophe! In our boat, we almost lost more than 20 people. I mean it would have been something simple if we all seat in our place and wait for the rescue team to help us without behaving like that.”
A New Dawn and Integrating in a New Home Away from Gambia
Europe will remain land of opportunities to those who haven’t traveled but a battle of unexpected realities to those who’ve survived all phases of the Back Way and reached there. Culture shock, language barrier, homelessness or living in makeshift camps, unfamiliar freezing cold and integration are one of myriad of qualms migrants need to deal with.
Saidykhan moved over to Germany where he feeels presented better chance for migrants willing to learn and integrate. Today, he works as a stringer for a couple of German media outlets and takes solid passion in activism becoming, in the process, role model to most of his likes there.
” I think Germany is a great country and a country that values human rights and gives possible chance to refugees to integrate and build up their new life. Italy is a country that lacks that opportunity to help and support migrants who are willing to go to school.
“No matter how smart you’re, if you can’t speak this language, you ain’t going anywhere! So of course for me, the best method of integrating into a society is language. We have to focus on education [and] we have to offer positive role-models, to show them that integration is possible and we can do better too. There are also many of us who are well-educated and really want to build up here ; they (migrants) want to work and to restart their lives, but they face many obstacles. For example, getting their diplomas and qualifications recognised in Europe can be difficult. But if you’re willing to face the obstacles, trust me there is a space for you in this country,” he says.
Creating a Platform to Guide Migrants with Misconception of Europe
Seedy recognises misinformation about Europe as a herculean problem for most migrant Africans and the first cause for the precarious journey. Much like he had to begin with, he believes the first perception of Europe is triggering factor and he has set up a website WeMigrants were migrants could log into for their perusal of any info regarding migration.
“I think I just want to help to make sure that people coming to this journey know exactly what it means to come to Italy because the information we heard in the Gambia about this Back Way and what’s on this way is totally different. So I wan to keep making people updated making sure that they ain’t fooled. But I used the page for different reasons. Helping out family in search of their family members lost on the Back Way. Helping create GoFund for dead brothers and sisters in Europe, updating migrants and refugees on migration issues in Europe
“Well I believe that integration will be successful when refugees are able to solve their problems independently. To make this possible, knowledge must not be monopolized, but collectively collected and made accessible to everyone. So WeMigrants work for a world in which information is passed on directly, transparently and at eye level verbal & non verbal – this is how we offer refugees and helpers help to help themselves,” he said.
Last week we had this interview, Saidykhan was preparing to lead a protest re-emphasising relevance of black lives in Europe, an initiative inspired by the recent demise of George in the U.S.