THE FATHER AND SON: "I will hold him back - I refuse to allow him to go"

by Kieran Guilbert | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 5 October 2016 10:00 GMT

Issa Thiam, 68, spent several years in France as a young man, but refuses to allow his son to follow in his footsteps due to the dangers of the journey across the Mediterranean sea from Libya. Photo taken in Goudiry, Senegal, July 6, 2016. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Kieran Guilbert

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GOUDIRY, Senegal, Oct 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Issa Thiam, 68, spent several years in France as a young man, but refuses to allow his son to follow in his footsteps from Goudiry in southeast Senegal due to the dangers of the journey across the Mediterranean from Libya.

"I have a small shop, but it is not going well as we face many difficulties. When you are the person responsible for feeding 10 or 20 people, none of whom are working, it is hard. 

Many young men are leaving Senegal because it is so hard.

The youngsters who are here do not work because there are no jobs. If the village seems to be doing well, it is thanks to the migrants who build schools and health centers, and drill wells.

My wives want to plant vegetable crops. The village women's association is willing, but they do not have much to work with. 

Some outsiders came a few years ago, saying they would create some projects and opportunities, but it never happened. 

The young kids feel driven to leave. Trying to prevent them is not easy. They do not listen, they are committed to leaving, even at the risk of their lives.
When I hear about someone planning to migrate, I will slap him or hold him back if I can - I refuse to allow him to go. 

You can gather all unearthly things and even offer me 1 million CFA ($1,730) but I will not leave because I know the sea and all of its dangers. 

Two of my children want to leave but I said no. 

Senegal can advance and develop if the young people stay here and work here. They leave because they cannot find work, but their leaving does not allow the country advance."

Ibrahim Thiam, 25, wants to migrate to Europe like many of his friends have done, but won't move without his father's approval. Photo taken in Goudiry, Senegal, July 6, 2016. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Kieran Guilbert

Ibrahim Thiam, 25, wants to migrate to Europe like many of his friends have done, but won't move without his father's approval.

"I work in a shop that I run, but the business is not going well due to a lack of funds. To own a shop is what I wanted, and at least it means I have some work, but it is not enough for me.

I opened the shop because there was nothing else to do. There are no other jobs, or companies where people can work and have a salary. We are all doing what we can.

I wanted to leave, so I made a plan to emigrate - to save my family from some of life's hardships. 

What keeps me from leaving? I told my father of my plan, and he did not give me his permission.

I am aware of the dangers. But staying here is harder than migrating, because when you are here with nothing to eat or drink, it becomes a crisis.

It would be different if things were good here. We have a dam here, so if we had roads and a good supply of water, people could grow crops in abundance, and sell them to make a living.

I have friends who say life is hard in Europe - there are problems with employment and documents.

But, in my opinion, it would be better to be in a prison out there than to be here doing nothing."

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