Despite only having a population of 2 million, The Gambia’s biggest export is its own people.
Gambians are the second-most frequent arrivals by sea in Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Many Gambians believe that getting to Europe – at a cost of about £1,600 ($2,000) – is the only way to improve their lives, the Guardian newspaper reported.
Tales of Gambians reaching Italy or Spain now reach even the remotes villages in The Gambia via Facebook and text message. The Washington Post newspaper compares this phenomenon to “rumours of a gold rush”.
However most men keep their plans to leave a secret, fearing a negative reaction from relatives or, until now, arrest by President Jammeh’s authorities, the newspaper says.
Gambians have traditionally migrated to find their fortunes, settling in West Africa as well as further afield, reports humanitarian news service IRIN.
During the 1980s many Gambians went to Scandinavian countries and during the 1990s to Libya.
Remittances from abroad make up about 20% of the country’s GDP.
But there are few opportunities for jobs at home and growth contracted in 2014 as a result of the Ebola crisis and its impact on tourism as well as a lack of rain for agriculture, IRIN says.
Share this post on