Abba Wollow left The Gambia in 2016 with hopes of reaching Europe. “I left The Gambia because the small garage I was working on was not enough to support my family,” he explained. “I left to find something better for them.”
Instead his journey ended in Libya, where he stayed for two years, in and out of prison. “When I came back, I was still finding ways to support my family,” he said of the struggles he faced after voluntarily returning home in February 2018.
In June 2018, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) signed an agreement with the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSS), under the Ministry of Youth and Sports, to provide Technical and Vocational Educational Training (TVET) to 200 Gambian returned migrants. Through this agreement, NYSS taps into the expertise of four private sector enterprises and two government training centres to deliver training in various skill areas to returnees like Abba.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to undergo a three-month training in mechanics,” said Abba, who is now one of 101 young Gambians to complete the programme. On Tuesday 19 March 2019, the trainees formally graduated from their three-month training in construction, carpentry, electronics, mechanics, plumbing, tailoring, welding and many other sectors. Each of them will receive a start-up kit consisting of the basic materials and tools necessary to set-up and operate a workshop in their chosen sector.
The graduation, the second one in four months, marks IOM’s commitment to the sustainable reintegration of more than 3,600 Gambians who voluntarily returned from Libya and Niger since 2017.
“We recognized the massive potential and willingness of returnees to ‘make it in The Gambia’, needing just a final push to gain meaningful, employable skills,” said Fumiko Nagano, IOM Chief of Mission in the Gambia. “This would not be possible without our partners in the private sector, who have lent their expertise to equipping returnees with the tools they need to succeed.”
“We, as the private sector, are able to provide returnees with skills or facilitate their job placement. This will give them a livelihood they can depend on,” said Jean Abel Thomas of the Fajara Skills Development Centre. “We teach our trainees that, if you have the skills, you can turn them into something profitable,” she added, highlighting the growing role of the private sector in assisting vulnerable migrants.
Last November, 13 Gambians formed the first cohort of trainees to graduate from a poultry farming and business start-up programme. “I have been able to sell nearly all my chickens. My customer base has increased significantly,” said Lamin, one of the graduates, three months into his poultry business. Like Lamin, others in the cohort hope to see their farms grow bigger to create employment opportunities in their communities.
“The start-up kits you receive will go a long way towards facilitating your reintegration, with the hope that you will be self-employed or even job creators in The Gambia,” echoed Stephane Meert, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation, in his remarks to the TVET graduates.
The Technical and Vocational Education and Training programme is implemented in the framework of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration. Since January 2017, IOM has assisted in the voluntary return of over 3,600 Gambians stranded in Libya and Niger. As of March 2019, almost two-thirds of them have received reintegration support. Ensuring the sustainability of reintegration of returned migrants requires a strong collaborative approach with partners from the government, civil society and the private sector.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Organization for Migration (IOM).
A Gambian welding graduate with his start-up kit. Photo: IOM/2019 Mariam Njai