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Left behind by migrant husbands, women break the rules and go to work

Ida Traoré with her husband, Abdoulaye Diarsso, who was visiting her for the first time in 13 years.

 

KOUTIA, Senegal — Years had passed since her husband had crossed the sea to look for work in Europe. Left behind, Khadijah Diagouraga trudged to the couple’s peanut fields alone every day, struggling to earn enough to provide for an extended family of 13.

When the town’s water pump broke and her faucet went dry, she tied a donkey to a cart to haul water from a nearby well, cursing her absent husband the whole way. Her action shocked this small, conservative village in rural Senegal. Guiding animals was men’s work, village leaders said.

“It’s not a sight I ever wanted to see,” said Baba Diallo, 70, sitting in the shade of a dried cornstalk canopy, shaking his head as if to rid himself of the memory.

Across West Africa, villages have been emptied of husbands and sons in their prime who set out for Europe to look for work and never returned. Women, realizing they might never see the money their men promised to send home, have gradually taken on what are seen as men’s roles, earning money and running large households of in-laws and other extended family members.

“There are a couple men who look down on me,” Ms. Diagouraga said. “I ignore them. What matters to me is hard work.”

Senegal is among the countries most affected by the phenomenon of missing men. Senegalese were among the top 10 nationalities to land in Italy during a spike in migration in the middle of the decade. Although migration to Europe has dropped sharply as nationalism has led some European countries to impose tighter controls, West African communities are still reeling, with many of their men gone now for years.

Some will never return, perishing while crossing the desert or drowning at sea. In Koutia and the few surrounding villages, at least 130 people have died in recent years on the journey, local officials said.

Many of Senegal’s migrants come from sun-bleached flatlands near Koutia in the east that rely almost entirely on peanuts and a handful of other crops for income, even as a yearslong drought shows no sign of letting up.

Many working-age men here have given up. The village chief of Koutia estimates that in little more than one generation, 200 men from the 95 households have migrated to Europe. Many were the family’s chief earners.

The lure of Europe is on display in Senegal’s villages. Amid the clusters of shabby mud-brick homes are houses made of cement, some two stories tall, painted and surrounded by cement walls. All were paid for with money sent home by migrants.

READ  Almost 400 migrants relocated from Italy since September

Ms. Diagouraga and her husband used to pass those homes as they walked to their peanut fields. They saw the satellite dishes on rooftops and neighbors clutching iPhones. Then there was the shiny, tiled mosque with towering minaret, which the village chief bragged had been built with money pooled from local migrants. A few villagers could even afford cars.

Ms. Diagouraga’s husband, Mohamed Diawara, had bought a small automated mill to grind millet and corn to sell. But fuel for the device was expensive, and it was constantly breaking down. Farming was tough, too. Each harvest seemed smaller than the one before. Mr. Diawara had only one donkey to help him till the soil, while his neighbors had sophisticated plows.

Mr. Diawara had been saving to buy a new part for his mill, but told his wife he wanted to use the money instead to pay smugglers to take him to Italy.

She knew it was dangerous; three men from Koutia had died trying that same year. Stay and we’ll make it work, Ms. Diagouraga pleaded.

But we’ve been living hand-to-mouth all these years, he told her.

“He has a man’s heart,” Ms. Diagouraga said. “It was hard telling him not to go.”

Mr. Diawara left one morning five years ago, just as the call to prayer sounded. She pressed into his arms a blue-and-white blanket she had embroidered for him and spent the whole day crying.

Five months passed with no word.

“I wasn’t sure if he was alive,” Ms. Diagouraga said. “Maybe he lost his phone? I had heard stories of migrants being robbed. Maybe he died in prison? Or at sea?”

She was busy cooking the day he finally called. He was in Italy, he said, and had been through hell to get there. He didn’t give her details; the important thing was that he had made it.

Safy Diakhaby’s husband left for Europe when she became pregnant 11 years ago. She works hard to get by and shares her bounty with other women.

She thanked him for risking his life to help his family. It was four more months until he called again.

Communication between the couple became brief and infrequent. Finally, he sent money — the equivalent of $20. An entire year passed before he sent cash again.

Work in Europe is far from guaranteed for many migrants. Mr. Diawara said in a telephone interview that he was sharing a room with four other men and sometimes went days without eating. His salary working day jobs on a cleaning crew was too little. He couldn’t afford to go home.

READ  JIFORM calls for multi-dimensional approaches to tackling human trafficking

Ms. Diagouraga knew life was hard for him. But she was now supporting not only her own two children, but his family too: several nieces and nephews and Mr. Diawara’s ailing mother.

Left to her thoughts, Ms. Diagouraga sometimes got angry at her husband. What if he was cheating on her in Italy? She put the thought out of her mind. Sleeping alone in their double bed with its yellow bedspread and wooden headboard, she missed intimacy.

She had thought about leaving her husband. But she loved him. And how could she leave a man who was only trying to do better for his family?

READ ALSO: Almost 400 migrants relocated from Italy since September

Women in nearby villages in similar situations had divorced migrant husbands to find companions closer to home. In Magali, Ida Traoré, 32, became pregnant with twins while her husband was living in France.

Her father-in-law called France to tell his son, Abdoulaye Diarsso, that his wife was having an affair. Mr. Diarsso immediately phoned her, to apologize. He had been away 13 years, after all.

“She has sexual urges,” Mr. Diarsso said during his first visit with his wife since he’d left. “It’s difficult to accept, but if I ignore this, I’m not being honest.”

Some women are still subject to the rules of older men who step in while their sons are abroad. In the village of Niaouli Tanoun, where six men have left for Europe, their wives complained that one aging father-in-law had barred them from walking around freely, let alone earning money.

But elsewhere, women have united and prevailed. In Magali, wives of migrants garden together, sharing harvests and lending one another money. They are led by Safy Diakhaby, 28, whose husband left for Europe when she became pregnant 11 years ago.

She had urged him to go. He has sent home enough cash to build a concrete home, but not enough to support the 21 people in her compound.

She hired a crew of men to work the fields, and knowing that they might be reluctant to listen to a woman, she cooks lunch as an incentive. She stores peanuts to sell when the crop is out of season and scarce. She shares her bounty with other struggling women.

“If we don’t help each other, we all suffer,” Ms. Diakhaby said.

But many migrants’ wives have resorted to handouts, which is just what many male elders say they prefer. Habsatou Diallo lives down a winding dirt path in Koutia not far from Ms. Diagouraga. Her husband left for Europe six years ago without saying goodbye. She hasn’t heard from him since.

READ  Nigeria waves payment for migrants affected by travel restriction

The clay oven Ms. Diallo had used to bake bread to sell at the market fell apart without him to maintain it. She has no money anyway to buy flour. She depends on her father-in-law for handouts.

Ms. Diagouraga considered begging herself one day when she went to wash her clothes and realized she was out of laundry soap. She couldn’t afford more — let alone school fees for her children.

“Who could I even ask for help?” she said. “I was angry at everything. I thought it was best I just do things for myself.”

She decided to work harder. She hooked up the donkey to plow, and to haul water from the well. She started to earn a bit of cash from her harvest and set up a shop selling tea and sandwiches.

She heard hushed comments from onlookers. She saw them staring. Women should rely on charity, some of the men said. Others said she wasn’t strong enough. Some said they felt sorry for her.

Ms. Diagouraga recently fell ill and had to buy medicine with the money intended for tea-shop supplies. One afternoon when her 5-year-old daughter bounded in from school with a tuition bill, Ms. Diagouraga just stared at it. The bill was for less than a dollar, but still more than she could afford.

“I’ll go talk to your teacher and tell him to be patient,” she said.

And then she got to work, soaking beans for dinner and sweating as she ran behind a donkey, urging it to hoist pails of water from a deep well.

Some of the village’s few remaining young men were sprawled nearby in the shade. They lifted their heads to watch her on that baking afternoon.

“I pray God will help her see the fruits of her labor,” said Hamidou Diawara, 19.

They had been there for hours doing nothing, Mr. Diawara said, daydreaming about sailing to Europe.

(www-nytimes-com)

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Human trafficking: PJI  urges proper trauma management for returnees

The Pathfinder Justice Initiative (PJI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, has called for proper trauma care for migrant returnees to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to subsequent trafficking.

Evon Benson-Idahosa, the Executive Director, PJI, made the call at a Rehabilitation Workshop for Providers Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking held in Benin on Thursday.

The workshop was organised by PJI and funded by INSighT- Building Capacity to deal with human trafficking and transit routes to Nigeria, Italy and Sweden.

Benson-Idahosa said that a majority of returnee-migrants usually undergo different traumatic situations and needed to be properly rehabilitated before being integrated back into the society. She noted that if the migrant returnees were not properly rehabilitated, they would not be able to put into good use any form of skills acquisition or empowerment received.

“Providers serving survivors should know how to handle traumatised victims because many of them, especially females, have been raped and have gone through horrible experiences during their trafficking journey.

READ  Over 70 migrants die as devastating shipwreck occurs off Libya

“The providers should know that there are best practices in terms of handling trafficked victims; they need to use a survivor centred approach to prioritise the needs of the victims,” she said.

She called on the government at all levels to partner more with NGOs on providing best traumatic care for returned migrants in the country.

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How Nigerian-American police officer burst human trafficking syndicate in US

A retried Nigerian American Police officer, Samuel Balogun  narrated how he  burst a human trafficking syndicate that specialized in using minors for prostitution.

“My biggest accomplishment was bursting a human trafficking crime,” Balogun said.

Giving details of how he executed the task,  the dark skinned retired police officer said: “ There was a guy that was using minors for prostitution on the internet.  I have an accent and when I speak people know I am an African. So, I had to go undercover and had to call the guy on the internet.  I said ‘ hey! what is going on, I am in town. I am a truck driver and I want some girls.’ I asked  how old? He said the younger they are, the more money. I said about 15 to 16 years. He said ok.  I asked  how many he could bring and he replied two. He said which hotel was I and I gave the name to him. He told me to hang up and  he called back  the hotel. He subsequently called me and asked if I was there and I said yes. He said he would be there in 20 minutes.

“We were waiting for him to come but he was smart too. He dropped the girls down the street and made them walk to the room. The girls asked how much I was ready to pay and wanted to take off their clothes but I said not yet.  In the next room were officers listening to our conversation. When I make a signal, that means it is time for them to come in. but before you make the signal, you have to make sure they have mentioned the price, they have given the reason why they were there, so it doesn’t look like you are entrapping them.  When I made the signal, the officers burst in and arrested everybody including me.

Thereafter, Balogun said  the police  processed the girls and after that, “they said look, you are minors and we know somebody is pushing you to do this. Now we don’t want to arrest you but tell us how to get to the boss.  The girls cooperated and  made as if they were leaving. When the man pulled up to pick them up, and that was how we arrested  him. That stopped a lot of those crimes.”

READ  Almost 400 migrants relocated from Italy since September

Balogun said he was in Nigeria to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the disturbing security situation in the country. “ I am trying to bring back  my experience as a  police officer in the states to Nigeria. When you look at the #endsars period, the performance of the police was something that hurt my feelings. How can we make it better? How can we make the police job something that people will look with respect  and want to join?”

He hinted that his  security firm is involved in training not only police officers but “ I also train private security companies. I am in touch with a lot of private security companies in Nigeria.  There is another concept which Nigeria is embracing right now.

“It is called community policing. In the states it is called neighbourhood policing or community policing. It works in a way that in every street, there would be a police officer that lives in that neighbourhood.   You get to know the people and the people know you. In some apartments, they will give you a discount just for the police officer to be there because they know once a police officer is living there, the police car is outside and the crime level will reduce. People are more likely to talk to that officer because they know him. They are more able to tell him’ hey we know who committed that crime.’  For every crime, you need people to tell you what happened. You can have all the gadgets but if people are not talking, you can’t solve the crime.”

READ  Over 6,000 stranded migrants assisted back home through EU support

 

He further said: “I am training police officers, security companies and executive protection. What my security company is doing is to free the police officers from attachment to chiefs, politicians and all that.  We train civilians to represent those officers so that they can go back to the street and do their normal jobs.  We have what we call executive protection/training. We have people that follow the president.  We can train you on how to be efficient and sometimes using less force, description tactics.”

Further expatiating on what his security firm does, the soft spoken officer said: “What my company is trying to do is to bring people to the table.  We are trying to train companies that there is a better way of security where we can teach you how to defend yourself, how to prepare for any emergency, and how to use less force. I have a guy, a navy seal that worked for the United States of America. You will be amazed about what he can do. He can disarm you in a minute even when you come with AK 47.    I am also bringing Hostage Negotiation, people that can talk to you when ransom has to be paid. In the US, we call it Hostage Negotiation.  They can talk to these people, and know their psyche. It is a full package. When you come  to my firm, you can see the whole spectrum  and choose.”

As a vastly travelled person, Blagun said: “I travel a lot and in all the African nations is where you see officers with AK 47. They said it is more intimidating. Criminals use AK 47 in America too but we still don’t carry it.  Is that the right weapon for the police officers, I leave that question open. “

READ  UN agencies welcome first 24 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Greece

On the attitude of the Nigerian authorities his plans, he said: “I have talked to a lot of people in higher positions. In some places I don’t want to mention, I have got good responses.  My firm has done some things with certain private firms and the police. I have dealt with some highly placed security firms. So, this is not my first time here.  We are   looking at having training in Sheraton around July/August this year. It is going to be a big one. I am bringing a retired FBI agent, a navy seal, a retired marine , myself and may be two other officers.

“This is my country, I am proud of it. I am sad sometimes when you look at the security aspect of it.  With my experience, I am trying to make it a better place.  It has always been my passion to come back home. I am retired and don’t really need to work again. My benefits are okay untill I die.  But why die with all this experience when I can pass it to the next person.”

 

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Hundreds of thousands of people leave Britain due to pandemic

 

Hundreds of thousands of people have left Britain as a fallout  of the pandemic on the economy, according to a study released yesterday.

There is an “unprecedented exodus” of workers born outside Britain, researchers at London’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence said.

“It seems that much of the burden of job losses during the pandemic has fallen on non-UK workers and has manifested itself in return migration, rather than unemployment,” said the authors.

The study is based on labour market data.

The trend was particularly notable in London, where one in five residents was born abroad.

The capital’s population has fallen by 700,000, the study said, adding that nationwide, the figure could be more than 1.3 million.

If these numbers are accurate, this is the largest decline in Britain’s population since World War II, according to the study.

No evidence suggests that similar numbers of British people who live abroad are returning to Britain.

However, this could be a temporary trend, the researchers said, noting that workers from abroad might return after the pandemic.

The British economy depends on workers from abroad and it is not only threatened by migration due to the pandemic.

Many industries fear the loss of skilled workers due to Britain’s departure from the European Union and stricter migration laws.

A further trend in 2021 is also causing concern, described as a “baby bust” by consultancy PwC, which said many couples were postponing having children due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

This could lead to the lowest birth rate since 1900, PwC said in early January.

READ  UAE pays for 180 tickets as 252 stranded NIgerians return 

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