Every so often, stories of migrants perishing at sea or in other forms of transport all in the name of searching for greener pastures across the borders hit our media.
Just recently, bodies of nineteen Ethiopians were found in the back of a Zambian container truck, having suffocated to death. 76 more were found alive inside the container truck and are believed to have been on their way to South Africa. In May more than 700 people perished at sea as the boat they were traveling in from Libya to Italy capsized and killed the hundreds.
These are just but some of the heart-wrecking stories of migrants, who perish on their way to safer havens which they never reach. Some people, however, reach the other side, and the greener pastures they allegedly saw from a distance is not as green or as real.
Then, these people have to embark on a life of struggling to survive every day; searching for jobs to sustain themselves in a foreign land and saving a little to send back home. Those that are lucky get jobs and are able to stay on, others, go through worse experiences than they did in their home countries. With no job or money to survive abroad, they opt to return home. Some don’t even have enough to buy a ticket back home. They call for help from the same people they ought to be helping.
Gambians who have traveled to China in search of jobs have returned home calling on other young Gambians no to go, as the experiences they have gone through, they would not wish them on their compatriots.
Motivated to tell his story to the rest of the Gambian community and Africa at large, Lamin Ceesay, returned from Guangzhou, a disappointed man. His uncle sold off his taxi business to get tickets for their travel to China.
His first impression of the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou was great and he expected nothing less but a better life for him and his family back in Tallinding Kunjang, outside of the Gambian capital, Banjul.
“It was very developed. The tall buildings, everything was colorful. I thought, okay my life is going to change. It’s going to be better. Life is good here,” Ceesay told Quartz.
Youth unemployment in the West African nation whose population is under 2 million people, is almost 40 percent. With high rates of unemployment, young people have opted to leave their villages for Europe (mostly) and China, in the recent past. Compared to Europe and North America, border restrictions in China have been easier, giving many Africans an opportunity to go into the country as migrants, traders or entrepreneurs.
Ceesay tried to leave Guangzhou for Hong Kong where rumors had it that work was better. He was not lucky. He was caught and escorted back to the Chinese city, Guangzhou, by police. Not giving up to life’s challenges, Ceesay found himself in Thailand, where he stayed for three months searching for work in vain. He later left for home with one mission- to tell his story.
On returning home, through local radio shows, Ceesay answered questions from callers about life experiences and work in China.
The voice for the voiceless
In a bid to spread his gospel and that of other Gambians, the 25-year-old started a Facebook page, ‘Gambians Nightmare in China’ detailing the frustrations and horrific situations that he and other Gambians in China found themselves in.
Concerned about the increased number of youth suffering in foreign states, a cadet inspector Saidou A.M Bah, wrote an article urging youths to utilize money spent in acquiring the visa to other nations to build themselves.
“There are so many social and health implications of clandestine or irregular migration,” Mr Bah wrote. “Many youths have lost their lives in the Canary Island, hundreds of lives of youth perish in the Sahara Desert and others die upon arrival due to exposure to harsh weather conditions while traveling,” the article read in part .
Ceesay’s story has attracted the attention of migration researchers, Heidi Østbø Haugen and Manon Diederich, from the University of Oslo and the University of Cologne, who have created a website called Uturn Asia to capture such horrors.
“The project came about because they had a strong wish to warn others against coming,” says Østbø Haugen. “They thought they could do so more effectively as a group than as individuals as individual accounts of failure are often written off as attempts to justify ineptness,” Quartz reported.
What is even more humiliating as people give accounts of their experiences, is the financial situation the migrants put their families into in order to afford the tickets to China. Some have to sell off their assets, take up loans or spend their life-savings to support their son’s or daughter’s quest, only for them to get there and run out of money and suffer humiliations without jobs.
“The dream that you hoped for—the better job, better life— is not there. It’s just a dream that is nowhere to be found in Asia,” Ceesay says.
Some Africans will hear of these stories and embark on building their lives at home with the monies they have been saving. Others will not heed the call, and will run off to other countries in search of greener pastures, just like Ceesay’s younger brother who is reported to have left for Europe a few weeks ago. Even after Ceesay described his experience to him, he left. Ceesay last heard from him when he was in Libya.
Image credit: www.chinasmack.com