Gambians see Sharp Decline in Emigration, Though Interest in Leaving Remains High
Migration is a high-profile issue in the Gambia, especially irregular low-skilled emigration beyond the borders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year autocratic regime, characterized by poverty and poor governance, triggered a wave of irregular emigration – especially by young Gambians – to Europe, a phenomenon known locally as “the back way” . In 2016, nearly 12,000 Gambians arrived in Italy via the Mediterranean, a 36% increase from 2015. The alarming rate of emigration placed the Gambia among the top five nations in the number of citizens who cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy . Afrobarometer's maiden national survey in the Gambia reveals that while an overwhelming majority of citizens say that irregular migration has declined in the past year, almost six in 10 citizens have considered emigrating – most often in hopes of finding employment. Almost half of Gambians also say rural-urban migration within the country has increased. A majority of Gambians say they encounter difficulties in crossing international borders to work and trade within the sub-region despite the ECOWAS Protocol of 1979 establishing unimpeded movement of people, goods, and services.