It’s far from smooth for Gambians trapped in troubled Lebanon amid looming uncertainty over their futures.
Enticed to travel to Beirut on the promise of earning a decent living, majority Africans including Gambian women end up getting trapped doing menial jobs and on starvation pay or working as slaves against their will.
These trips are often facilitated by people-smugglers some of whom, Gambia News understands, are Gambians with connections in the Western Asian country.
Such is the fates of thirty six Gambian ladies whose plight have hugged international headlines after they vandalised the West African country’s consulate there in display of anger, accusing the Barrow government of refusing to facilitate their repatriation.
Activist Fatou Jagne, herself once a victim, a leading voice against trafficking, is one of those irked by the story of the seemingly protracted delay returning of the women, and clamped down hard at the government, blasting its foreign affairs ministry’s official Saikou Ceesay of “lying to the public”.
It turned out the girls, barely able to feed having been rendered cash-strapped, distraught and homesick, have made public their sorry plight nine months ago and are umbraged, this week by government’s inaction.
Stepping in to save the situation or rather seen to be out to secure the girls’ return, Sweden-based Gambian Lovette Jallow offered to buy all 36 migrants tickets – a proposal some officials from government have allegedly rejected over claims the philanthropist is out to garner cheap popularity.
The stand-off, though not the official position of Barrow’s leadership, has led to accusations and counter claims as social media goes ablaze regarding the issue.
All tickets have been booked, in Jallow’s narration, revealing her attorneys both in Gambia and in Lebanon have been gruelingly working to ensure the ladies’ quick return.
Also serving as chairperson of Action for Humanity and founder of Black Vogue, an agency out to celebrate black women, Lovette believes the government in her home land in Gambia rested on its laurel, watching impotently the girls “suffer in silence”, alleging them of springing up to action now in desperate bid to save face.
Narrating her side of the tale, Lovette was brutal expansive.
“Monday means that all our flight operators are open. Our lawyer has been driving to each operator . Literally, three hours ago, we found flight from Lebanon to Senegal and we arranged from Senegal a bus to take the girls to the border of Gambia. From the border of Gambia, we have another bus that’s gonna take them into Gambia.
“So I can book their hotels and they can be quarantined. Everything was set. All we needed was Halib , the Gambian Consul to actually confirm that the papers are done. I almost paid 1.3 million dalasis for all 36 tickets. Halib is saying that only 28 of them can leave and the Gambian government has told him these girls cannot leave unless the Gambian government pays for them but the Gambian government is not ready to pay 1.3million dalasis. Are they? If we allow the Gambian government to pay for them it will take another nine months. Four of the girls, their mums and dad have died. Some of these girls have not seen their parents for nine years. Many of these girls have been beaten and abused. Now that someone like me and my NGO are ready to pay 1.3 million dalasis, the Gambian government, aka, Saikou Ceesay, aka Barrow are saying they are going to pay. We have reserved it so by tomorrow (Tuesday), 9:00 am, the tickets will be gone. This is the only flights all 36 girls and children can be in to travel together to Gambia. I don’t want the government to bloody refund me. I have wasted money on NGO, helping people. The is not the first time,” she said.
In an attempt interpreted as an indirect blast back at Jallow, the Gambia’s foreign affairs ministry dispatched a communique claiming twenty of the aforesaid migrants have had a change of heart to stay on for economic reasons with only few taking up the repatriation offer.
As this revealing but heart-wrenching episode unfolds with an end, from the look of things, far from insight, Lovette claims there is an ongoing plot by the distraught Gambian migrants to burn down the Gambian consulate this Friday.