Gambia and four other West African countries top the list of migrants trying to escape by sea to Italy and dying during the journey, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has confirmed.
IOM, in a press statement released on Monday, said in 2017 alone, 19,567 migrants arrived by sea to Italy and majority of them were from Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal and Gambia.
Over a thousand Gambians are currently confirmed to have been stranded in Libya, 460 of whom have volunteered to return and they are currently working with the International Organisation of Migration, interior minister Mai Fatty told journalists last week.
The organisation went on to say that there was a shipwreck in the past weekend where 521 people died at sea – “50 more compared to the same period in 2016… and the majority of these migrants are from Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal and Gambia – same as in 2016.”
IOM said the migrants who make it to Europe say the journey is far more dangerous than expected.
“Many are unaware of the dangers and risks of migrating with the assistance of smugglers, not only at sea or in the desert, but also in transit countries like Libya,” the organisation said.
“Recalling the life-threatening risks along their journey is often very distressing and in many instances, most migrants wish to forget and move forward with their lives and therefore tend not to share their experience with peers who are still back home.”
The UN refugee agency had described 2016 as the “deadliest ever” for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, with at least 3,800 people having drowned.
But with 521 people dead – 50 more compared to the same period in 2016, 2017 is set to be worse in terms of tragedies occurring from people trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
“We have been negotiating with the International Organisation of Migration because we have received concerns and requests from our citizens from Libya who have embarked on irregular migration we call back-way,” minister Fatty said.
“We have over a thousand Gambians who are currently stranded in Libya. There are many of them who want to return home. They are victims of crime with no money or proper shelter— their living conditions are abominable… It is the responsibility of a government to look over its citizens.”
Fatty added: “I want Gambians to understand that the ministry of interior through the immigration department will not be collusive with any government to intentionally arrest Gambians in anywhere in the world and to forcefully bring them back.”