|Mrs. Mai Manneh, "I sold ...land for my son to enter Europe"|
The treacherous route that traverses Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Libya en route to Italy by the Mediterranean, at a cost in the loss of huge human lives, is what is referred to in The Gambia as the "Back Way."
The Back Way phenomenon is nothing new, as a way of escaping poverty and misery brought about by a repressive and corrupt regime that has implanted itself into power by torture, execution and forced exiling of the regime's opponents.
There has been a steady out-flow of Gambia's youth since 2000 when Gambia's economy started taking a turn for the worse. The incidence of poverty has been on the increase - from 50% in 2000 to an alarming rate of over 70% - reflected in Gambia's position in the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) of 149 out of 161 in 2001 to 155 out of 177 in 2004.
In 2014, the Gambia still sits at 172 position out of 187 countries. It is this persistent level of poverty that has led Gambians to look for reprieve elsewhere, including in neighboring African countries like Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria. Gambians can be found in far-flung countries in southern Africa.
By the regime's own admission in the preamble of its current Youth Policy, it states that "...even a casual observation of the situation of young people in the country would reveal that the goals set in the last National Youth Policy 1999 - 2008 are far from being realized." The same document also acknowledged high youth unemployment and the fact that the "majority of the youth is poor"and that the "male youth are more likely to be poor than their female counterparts."
Therefore, as long as the regime of Yaya Jammeh is in power, there will be more Mai Mannehs and not less, because the level of poverty and the repressive nature of the government will worsen further stoking the mass exodus fire - an exodus that will continue to be exploited by the human traffickers in The Gambia who are in cahoots with the regime.