The European Union ambassador to Gambia, Attila Lajos, Wednesday announced the implementation of two major projects targeting migrants and young Gambians exploring ways to better their lives and attempting to chase their dreams in Europe.

The E.U plenipotentiary was speaking to journalists during an interactive session, dubbed “EU Press Breakfast” held at Kairaba Hotel in Kololi, some 8 km away from Banjul.

Funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF), Ambassador Lajos revealed that the ongoing projects are the Youth Employment Project (YEP) contracted to the International Trade Centre (ITC), and the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration implemented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

He then added that the two projects they are running are part of the existing cooperation with stakeholders in the public sector and outside government sphere.

“Both projects are funded by EUTF to tune of €14.9 million,” he said.

The EUTF for Africa was set up in November 2015 by the EU and African Head of States during the Valetta Summit in Malta. The main objectives of the fund is t foster stability and contribute to better migration management by addressing the roots causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and irregular migration.

“The Trust Fund for Africa is worth over €3.4 billion, with over 88% of the contributions coming from the EU, and 12% from EU member States and other donors,” he emphasised.

For his part, The Interim Project manager for EU-IOM Joint Initiative Euan McDougall reminded the gathering that IOM is a United Nations agency.

“We are working within UN to support our member States, migrants. When migration is managed properly, it can benefit migrants and society,” he pointed out.

Mr McDougall said the EU-IOM Joint Initiative is a three-year project with a total budget of €3.9 million.

“The project was designed to address the growing challenges of irregular migration in West Africa and other region across the continent. One of the key priorities is to save life of migrants facing dangers along the migration routes,” he added.

He said the whole initiative is based on partnership with government, civil society, the media and other relevant stakeholders.

The initiative covers 13 countries including the tiny West African nation.

“Migrants are vulnerable due to a range of different factors associated with their individual situation. The initiative aims to support migrants to return to their country in a safe and dignified voluntary way,” he remarked.

He said the project is meant to help migrants rebuild their life, to participate in the social, cultural, and economic aspects of their life in their country of origin.

Lifting a corner of the veil on the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, McDougall said 1500 migrants are benefiting from their support, and 771 returnees have already received reintegration assistance.
“We believe that reintegration is a process and has several layers including the social, economic and psycho-social dimensions,” he noted.

The reintegration assistance also includes referrals to programmes or services available; support to pursue education; medical care, psychological support for the most vulnerable people; support for job insertion; and support to support to start a small business as an individual, with other returnees (collective project) or with community members (community-based members).

In a similar vein, the Project Manager at the Gambia Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), Raimund Moser, made their leading target remains the youth.

He said they are working with the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment and the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

“The project is about creating opportunities to address the root causes of irregular migration,” he said. ‘Most of the irregular migrants are leaving because of lack of economic opportunities.’

The YEP Project Manager said their main focus is geared towards helping the youths to improve their prospects of getting jobs while at the same time working with the private sector to create more opportunities.

“We also consolidate existing jobs” he added while insisting that the quality of the job matters.
Moser said that 2000 jobs will be created while efforts will also be deployed to consolidating 2000 existing jobs.

In trade sector, he said they have two trucks and are aiming at supporting 4000 youths directly in skills development. “We are looking at self-employment.”

In tandem with the private sector, Moser said the project is supporting 500 companies (MSME-Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises).

“We consider MSME as the engine for job creation,” he stated.

As youth driven project, he went on, they were able to make sure that the youths are part of the decision making process.

“It is not a surprise that the project is market-oriented as it is being implemented by the International Trade Center (ITC).”

Written by Abdoulie JOHN