THE OFFICIALS: "Many of our youth have drowned or died in the desert"

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

Alassane Diallo, the mayor of Koussan, a commune of 15 villages in Goudiry in southeast Senegal, hopes young people will stay at home and try to earn a living rather than risk their lives by migrating. Photo taken in Goudiry, Senegal, July 6, 2016. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Kieran Guilbert.

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GOUDIRY, Senegal, Oct 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Alassane Diallo, the mayor of Koussan, a commune of 15 villages in Goudiry in southeast Senegal, hopes young people will stay at home and try to earn a living rather than risk their lives by migrating.

"What we are trying to do is to curb the phenomenon of migration, to try and settle our youth here, so that we do not lose them in the Mediterranean, or in the desert.

It is not worth it to take a boat to go to Italy. Is it not suicide?

We would like them to stay close to us, work with us, and stop chasing after the past - chasing the lives of their grandparents who worked abroad and earned a lot.

The young people, they often don't want to stay because they see their friends coming back with nice things, such as cars. And that is how we have had such a great loss this year. Many of our youth have disappeared, drowned, or died in the desert.

This migration phenomenon in the community is due to the first ones who left Senegal for Europe.

Take their children, they think that Europe always stays the same; that it's a cash cow, that one must absolutely go there, that as long as one hasn't been there, one cannot be happy or even that one does not truly exist.

There is a lot of money being sent here from abroad. The most beautiful houses are inhabited by the families of migrants. This is what so often pushes the young people to leave. 

But the money that lands here is important, because the medical care, food and buildings, it's all due to the migrants. The money is often just spent on food, but the diaspora also build things in the commune, like boreholes.

But for our young people, it is better if they stay here. If you are here, you work at home, you work in your fields, you work in your plantations - it is better than dying at sea.

Often people are in a hurry, and when they are in a hurry, they can go adrift."

El Hadji Sao, the secretary-general of Goudiry, believes young people in southeast Senegal will be more likely to stay if they are trained in agriculture and the land was developed. Photo taken in Goudiry, Senegal, July 6, 2016. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Kieran Guilbert.

El Hadji Sao, the secretary-general of Goudiry, believes young people will be more likely to stay if they are trained in agriculture and the land was developed.

"Today the few buildings of note that you see in Goudiry belong to the migrants. The work of the migrants almost provokes the young men here. They build homes that make life beautiful, their kids ride on beautiful motorcycles, have beautiful phones.

The young people are tempted by seeing all of this. They say that, to succeed, to be somebody, you have to migrate.

But we must show them, by raising awareness, and with training and agriculture, among other things, that it is possible to make a living and have a life here.

All the billions of (West African) CFA franc that have been misspent coming from those who have migrated could have been better managed, so that it would be spent in a way that would help people in this region to no longer depend on migration. 

These families could have better education for their children, create farms, and start businesses.

We used to spend this money to feed our families, but now we are spending the money just to help others migrate.

People try to migrate four or five times and fail, then you end up emptying your savings, in terms of food, cows, and houses - maybe selling one or two houses.

Besides supporting their family, some migrants pay towards projects like health clinics, classrooms, water towers. Some organise themselves to improve the lives of others.

But it is just a few migrants who have used their money to achieve such projects.

The few migrants who have some money are reluctant to invest in the region because there is a problem of trust, and little hope to make their investment sustainable and profitable."

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