Mustapha K Darboe
At least 10,510 Gambian migrants have sought asylum in Europe between January and June of 2015, three times more than the population of the town of Janjanbureh, the capital of the Central River Region of the country.
The Luxembourg-based European statistical information directorate, Eurostats, has confirmed to Torchongambia that all the applicants are seeking international protection for the first time.
Italy is the biggest recipient with 6930, followed by Germany 2515; Switzerland 765; Sweden 135; France 115; and Spain 50.
Other European countries like Hungary,Netherlands, Finland, among others, received fewer applicants.
“Please note that the data for May and June 2015 are not complete yet,” Tiny Vandewiele from Eurostat press office told Torchongambia in an email interview.
“This also means that the EU figure for these months is not complete yet, as it is an aggregate of the numbers of all Member States.”
It’s not clear whether the asylum seekers are all irregular migrants.
However, barely two months ago, the Italian interior minister revealed that Gambians have registered the highest rate of migrant arrivals – more than 1,400 – in Italy, between January and April.
Back-way is very popular among Gambian youths and a recent investigation by torchongambia has revealed that youths in the Central Baddibou District settlements of Salikenni, Sabaa and Njaba Kunda are living in mass to Europe through the back-way.
Farmers have said that the mass exodus of youths to Italy is affecting agriculture.
A similar investigation by the Washington Post published barely a month ago, “Tiny Gambia has a big export: Migrants desperate to reach Europe”, has revealed similar popularity of back-way among youths in Dampha Kunda, in Upper River Region.
The Gambia has a population of 1.9 million people and the economy has been going through rough times, according to the recent reports by the International Monetary Fund and The African Economic Outlook.
The IMF has said in their recent press release that the Gambian economy “is at a crossroads”.
The dalasi has increasingly depreciated against all major currencies forcing the Government to fix the exchange rate at its own price.
This couples with higher youth unemployment rate and spiralling inflation.
The domestic debt of the country has recently rose to over 19 billion dalasi- 49% of the GDP.
The country has also fallen out with its biggest donors, the European Union, which has been active at providing extra-budgetary support to help the Government pluck some holes on its budget deficits.
The agricultural sector that employs most Gambians residing in the rural areas have also recently seen a massive decline due to what experts attributed to the effect of climate change, poor infrastructure, poor markets and lack of small scale processing base supporting it.
Many analysts believe the decline in agricultural productivity and the troubling economic situation in the country is fuelling the illegal migration to Europe.