A 5-day intensive Training on Guidance and Counselling for youth on Returnees’ Management was organised from 5 to 9 July at Bwiam ChildFund Lodge in Foni Kansala District, West Coast Region. The Counselling training is part of the collective efforts of the Gambia Government and its development partners to tackle irregular youth migration and accelerate the collective efforts to re-integrate voluntary returnees back to the Gambian society and economy. The counselling training was organised by the Gambia National Youth Council (NYC) in collaboration with the Gambia Immigration Department (GID) and supported by the Gambia Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). This training of the youth counsellors served as a kick-off for a pilot programme to offer counselling for returning migrants supported by the YEP project. The counselling programme includes orientation of the returnees on the economic opportunities, skills development programmes and support mechanisms available in the Gambia and an assessment of interests, skill sets and needs for possible linkages with service providers. Unfavourable economic conditions, high rates of unemployment as well as difficult political conditions over the recent years have compelled young Gambians to migrate through Libya and the Mediterranean Sea to Italy in search of better livelihood. According to the recent International Organization on Migration (IMO) report on Gambia, it has been estimated that more than 25,000 Gambian irregular migrants are languishing in the refugee camps in Italy jobless. Majority of these youths have faced serious conditions during their stay in Libya waiting to pass through to Italy. As a response to the call the Gambian Community in Libya, The Gambia Government through the ministry of Foreign Affairs are working closely with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to assist stranded young Gambians to return back home. According to statistics of the Gambia Immigration Department, there have recently been more than a thousand of youth repatriated, and more are expected to arrive soon.
Participants and facilitators at the meeting
The training brought together 25 youth counsellors representing youth groups from regions across the country and stakeholders dealing with youth irregular migration issues in the country. Training sessions were conducted by seasoned experts from WHO Gambia, the Gambia Immigration Department, University of the Gambia, the Gambia Red Cross Society and the Network against Gender based Violence. Participants took part in an aptitude assessment and were trained on techniques and ethics of guidance and counselling. The training topics included crisis situation management, psychological distress and depression management, psychological first aid (PFA) and crisis event simulation. Jawara Cham, Chief Inspector of the Gambia Immigration Department, addressed the participants and noted that some of the core factors of youth irregular migration to Europe are poverty, limited job opportunities, peer influence and family pressure, as well as the mindset of youth that life is only possible in the West. ‘’Let us educate and sensitize youngsters in our various communities to understand that one can make a good living in the Gambia’’. Mr. Cham challenged the youth leaders.
The lead facilitator of the training, Mr. Dawda Samba, Country Facilitator of the Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Program at the WHO Gambia Office, said that ”The Gambia should not only be a country that receives its own citizens but should be prepared to re-integrate these citizens into our communities. It should be our collective responsibility to guide, counsel and help rebuild the lives of our fellow young people who return”. He went on explaining that some of the migrants have faced untold physical, social and emotional trauma in transit and in the host countries, which may cause invisible mental scars which can also extend to their families."I learned a lot from the training. Now I know what Psychological First Aid is about, when and how to counsel a person who has experienced traumatic stress and how to offer humanitarian service, guidance and counselling to returnees" said Fatoumatta Fatty, a participant of the training from Kanifing Municipality Regional Youth Committee.
Newspapers reported on this initiative: The Point - Youth Forum: Youth trained on guidance, counseling for returnees management in Bwiam Foroyaa - 25 youths trained on Guidance, Counselling
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Returnees face myriad challenges, from social stigma to trauma. But they are also uniquely equipped to help educate others about the perils of irregular migration – and have a stake in healing the root problems that led them to leave in the first place.Posted 2 years ago