Berlin – For the IOM Germany Diaspora Newsletter December 2022 issue, IOM Germany spoke with Moro Yapha, a Gambia Diaspora Mentor, and Susanne Bellinghausen, Project Manager at the Migrant Media Network (#MMN), who are working tirelessly to raise awareness about the risks associated with irregular migration across Ghana and The Gambia.
All views expressed in this story do not necessarily reflect the views of IOM Germany.
What is the mission of the Migrant Media Network (#MMN)?
Susanne Bellinghausen: #MMN was created in 2019 to look at how diasporas in Germany share messages with people at home through social media, to combat the spread of misinformation. We do social media trainings for the diaspora, after which they travel for a short time to their home country, talk about their migration experiences—both the positive and negative aspects. By sharing their experiences firsthand, we want to inform people before they migrate, to help them be informed when making the decision to migrate. So even if they migrate irregularly, they know what to expect. Talking to Moro, I learned so many things from his migration experience that a lot of people do not know. We’re trying to develop tools to help the diaspora communicate with people back home, mainly in rural areas, where they may not have access to information due to limited internet access.
What is the #MMN method and approach?
Susanne Bellinghausen: We train diaspora and send them to the countryside to inform multipliers—the elders, the women, and the youth—about migration pathways. Throughout the year, trained diaspora representatives travel to Ghana and Gambia to do awareness raising. In addition, we have teams on the ground in both countries. Our local coordinators run regular “Bantabas” or “Stammtische” a few times a month to reach out to people, have conversations, and distribute the materials we produced. We also have an #MMNofflineAPP through which we share information on how to apply for a visa, for scholarships, and for vocational training at home before leaving. The #MMN team developed a Smart Migration Guide, from which the information for the MMNofflineApp was taken. The Guide covers more details, is very informative and doesn’t require a lot of reading but instead is graphically easy to understand. The trainers transport this material to the people by talking about it. We also work with our “Think Carefully, Move Safely” board game, which we created to have an interactive way to engage people in conversations that can be uncomfortable. It is like snakes and ladders, but with regular and irregular migration pathways.
What do you do as an #MMN Diaspora Mentor for the Gambia?
Moro Yapha: One year ago, I was invited, together with other Gambian activists working with migrants in Germany, to attend a workshop organized by #MMN. I am one of the Gambians who went through the Sahara and the sea, facing so many difficulties. After arriving in Europe, I created my own website to post about my experiences. The most important part of my advocacy is to make people back home aware of the dangers of irregular migration. I post about the untold stories of migration, asylum, and integration. As part of #MMN, I traveled back to Gambia, to Basse (the Upper River Region) where most Gambian migrants come from. We ran workshops with the local population, specifically youth, women, and the elderly. I spoke with them using the Smart Migration Guide about developing smart goals for migration, setting expectations, and what might happen on the journey. With the women, we focused on human trafficking and the exploitation of women along the journey. With the elderly, who are key stakeholders, I spoke about decision-making in migration, the realities and expectations for migration, human trafficking, exploitation of migrants along the journey, life experiences, struggles, and legal conditions of migrants along the journey to reach Europe.
How did your own migration journey prepare you for this role?
Moro Yapha: When I arrived in Europe, I became engaged in activism to raise the awareness of migrants and people back home about irregular migration. I wanted to go home and speak to my people directly, in my own language, about my experience. When I was sent to the Gambia, I was grateful to speak directly to the youth. I did not hesitate. I started from day one, when I packed my bag in the Gambia until I reached Libya, the time I spent time in Libya, how I crossed the sea to reach Italy, my stay in Italy, until I reached Germany. I explained everything to them. People told me I was the first Gambian sent from abroad to speak to them directly about my migration experience. Most people who succeed show off to the community, but they don’t tell the truth. I tell the youth that it is not worth it. I tell them, you are going to school, you can be educated. And if you are educated, it is a global world, so you can apply for studies and scholarships. The workshop with women was very emotional. Most of the women that attended either lost their sons or daughters or family members and shared with me their experiences, about what happened to their loved ones.
How do you frame your discussion about migration with Gambians?
Moro Yapha: When it comes to irregular migration, what we call the “backway” in The Gambia, it is hard to discourage people from going. If you are in Europe, you must be strategic. I am honest and speak to them from my experience. I did not board a plane to come and enjoy. It took me one year of difficulties. Crossing the sea, I could have died. I have two messages—to the diaspora, instead of sending money back home to encourage irregular migration, let’s invest in businesses in the Gambia. You can have a startup, encourage the people at home to get skills through vocational training, and when they are equipped, we can send them money to start a business. If we want to stop or reduce irregular migration, there should be a strategic way for diaspora to come together and develop strategies. These could be financial, advocacy, or other methods. We also need to stop sending photos, posting on Facebook and WhatsApp, that everything is alright, while we are sleeping outside.
Find out more information about the Migrant Media Network (#MMN) by visiting their website.
#MMN is a project by r0g_agency for open culture & critical transformation, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.