Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Gambian youth fleeing economic hardship and repression

African migrants now headed towards Greece
Unemployment in the Gambia is estimated to be anywhere from 7% to 22% depending on which set of figures you prefer to use - the former is a World Bank estimate while the latter by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The ILO estimates probably attempts at capturing the informal sector which is a significant sector because of its size but always difficult to estimate because, as the name implies, record keeping is a challenge.

Whichever figure is used, unemployment in the Gambian is high and has remained high throughout the regime of Yaya Jammeh.  Unemployment among the young has remained persistently higher than in the general population to the point that it has become endemic problem for the regime to handle because of its inability to put policies in place that will allow the economy to create jobs for a growing youthful population.

The tourism sector, which provided the seasonal employment to the youth in hotels and related tourist establishments, is experiencing one of its worst contraction in decades because of the Ebola epidemic which, although did not reach The Gambia, affected the number of tourists who visited the country last year.  The sector was down 60% in the 2014 season, a contraction that is severely impacting the economy as the second earner of foreign exchange.

The human rights environment in the country has contributed in a significant measure to the mass exodus of young Gambians.  Unemployed youth are favorite targets of the security forces that patrol the tourist areas.  They are often victims of an extremely repressive regime.  High unemployment, limited opportunities in a repressive environment are the causes of the high numbers of Gambian refugees among the Africans migrants that have flooded the European Union countries.

According to the European Statistical Agency, 21,000 Gambians have sought asylum status in Europe in the last seven years, and almost half of this figure or 11,515 Gambians only in the past year.  When compared to the comparable figures for Senegal, The Gambian seeking asylum status are two times more than a country whose population is over six times the size of its neighbor, quite a revealing figure.