News / Africa

    Local Organization Helps Returning Migrants Reintegrate Into Senegal

    Elhadji Moctar Gueye (far right) with his team of employees outside his metallic workshop in Dakar, December 19, 2011.
    Elhadji Moctar Gueye (far right) with his team of employees outside his metallic workshop in Dakar, December 19, 2011.
    Amanda Fortier

    Senegal has one of the highest remittance rates in Africa, partly a result of strong economic and social pressures that push many to go abroad in the first place - often illegally and often at great personal expense.  Amanda Fortier reports from Dakar on one illegal immigrant’s experience returning to Senegal, and how a local organization is trying to ease the transition by providing financial and psychological support.

    Gueye

    Elhadji Moctar Gueye left Senegal in 2007 on a one-month tourist visa for Italy. He had just finished his masters' studies in business finance in Dakar, but had yet to complete his thesis. Gueye was 32, recently married, and the oldest child in a poor family of 11 children. It was past time to get a job.

    Gueye says his initial plans were to go to Europe to finish his studies and return to Senegal to work. But if this did not happen, he planned to find work in Europe. Gueye says he did exactly as all other immigrants do when they leave - intending to go for a short period, but then deciding to stay on.

    Gueye remained in Italy for two years without legal papers. He eventually found a job as a metalworker, earning about $1,400 a month. Every month for five months he sent back $250 to $400 to his family, who might otherwise go a month without earning a cent.

    Supporting family

    Gueye says he was proud to send this money back, but it was not the job he studied for. If he continued to stay in Italy, he knew he would lose his intellectual abilities. Gueye says this work would have never allowed him the opportunity to do the research and studies that he was interested in.

    The World Bank says African migrants remit twice as much as the average migrant from other developing countries. During the past 20 years remittance flows into Africa have quadrupled, reaching $40 billion in 2010.

    Senegal receives remittances of more than $3,000 per person per year. This is more than four times the average in other West African countries, such as Ghana or Burkina Faso. In Senegal, the largest contributors to these remittance payments are men like Gueye - young educated males who migrate to Western countries and do whatever they can to help cover their family’s living costs back home.

    Counseling services

    Aloise Sarr is in charge of programs at Le Pari, a refugee and immigrant aid organization in Dakar that works with European non-government organizations helping to repatriate immigrants by providing financial aid and psycho-social counseling.

    Sarr says it is hard for him to talk of the advantages of migration when the majority is illegal, and the migrants are forced to work "under the table" to survive. For many of them, friends and family paid for their trips to Europe and to the United States. They do this in hopes to get something back. It is a type of what he calls a ‘salvation voyage’ for the migrant, which can bring a lot of shame on the person if they come back with their hands empty.

    Sarr says this is such an important aspect that some migrants actually prefer to stay in their host country, even if they are miserable and without papers, just to avoid the embarrassment.

    Returning home

    Gueye first returned to Senegal in 2009. Initially, his family was not supportive and advised him to be patient and keep looking for work.

    Gueye says in Senegal all families like to see their children travel, so of course they were happy when he left for Italy. But after a certain point in time, Gueye says he was no longer concerned about what everyone else wanted. He did not ask for their opinion anymore, because he was the one fighting for a better life for them. 

    Gueye tried to start up a couple butcheries in Senegal, a project that soon failed due to lack of funds.

    Determined to find a job, Gueye flew back to Europe on a short-term visa to Belgium. He stayed a year using a Senegalese friend’s ID card to get a job putting up posters for about $1,300 a month.

    Starting a business

    Elhadji Moctar Gueye stands beside one of his employees at his metallic workshop in Dakar, December 19, 2011.
    Elhadji Moctar Gueye stands beside one of his employees at his metallic workshop in Dakar, December 19, 2011.

    Eventually he connected with the aid agency, Caritas Belgium, which collaborates with Le Pari in Dakar. He submitted a project proposal and business plan to start a metal works company in Dakar. It was a way to combine his academic background in finance with his practical experience working in Europe.

    When Gueye returned to Senegal, for this second and last time, it was to begin his business with a small startup fund of $2,800.

    Gueye says this time it was harder to come back, because a lot of people saw him as a failure. When so many people are trying to get to Europe and they see someone who voluntarily comes back, they think this person is not ambitious and worth nothing. But Gueye says he knows what it is like in Europe and a lot of people there have trouble making ends meet while trying to do exactly what he is - starting his own business and following his passion.

    Sarr says the number of migrants wanting to return to Senegal is increasing, and through their program they are finding the emotional and psychological support will become more important in the coming years.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora