Before leaving for the backway in 2015, I worked in construction. It was through this work that I managed to raise the money I needed for my journey to Europe. After doing menial jobs in Burkina Faso, Niger and Libya to finance my travels, I attempted to cross the Mediterranean from Libya. Unfortunately, I was caught by the coast guard and spent three months in prison. The conditions were horrible. The space was not enough for the number of detainees, and we would only eat once a day, receiving only a small bottle of water.

When I returned home in 2017, my family and those around me were very happy and understood what I was going through. At the same time, a few people in the community laughed at me. However, I decided to ignore them and went back to my previous work in building and construction.

When I arrived back in The Gambia, I received support from IOM in the form of construction materials, including a wheelbarrow, building tools and one hundred bags of cement. I use these materials when I am contracted by companies for work. I was also referred to Enabel to undertake a six-month training programme on modern construction at Insight Training Centre where I was able to upgrade my construction skills and received a certificate. Today, with the support I received, I am able to provide for myself and my family. I am proud to say that I was part of those who constructed the youth facility in Janjanbureh and other Enabel projects within the Central River Region.

This country is very young, and there are many opportunities available for young people with skills.

There are many challenges in life, especially if you want to make a difference in what you engage in. The projects we are participating in and benefiting from, I see them as an alternative to keep young people active, especially those who have skills

The message I want to send to the youth is that they should acquire skills. This country is very young, and there are many opportunities available for young people with skills. I am a witness of the irregular migration hardships and, looking back, I would rather have invested in my skills than in the journey to Europe. I know what it takes to get there, and irregular migration is not a solution to the problems we face in life.

Saikou’s reintegration assistance was supported by the European Union's Emergency Trust Fund for Africa through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth