Source : http://wapo.st/1JtbWVf
How do you stop a historic flow of migrants to Europe?
With pop music, according to the U.S. Embassy in Gambia.
As thousands of migrants left Gambia, one of Africa’s smallest, poorest and least democratic nations, the embassy put on a concert aimed at deterring young men from making the journey to Europe. The concert, held in November, was called “No to Backway,” referring to the Gambian term for illegal migration across the Mediterranean.
As European policymakers deport migrants or debate how to disrupt smuggling networks, other efforts are being made to discourage young men and women from leaving in the first place. Banners have been hung in small villages across West Africa. Television and advertising spots have been purchased. The United Nations has been actively engaged in those campaigns around the developing world.
But the American attempt in Gambia is certainly one of the more creative. In addition to the concert, the United States paid twelve Gambian artists to write and record songs about illegal migration that would be performed live and disseminated across the country by radio and cellphone.
The singers were each paid around $270. The gross national income per capita in Gambia is $500, according to the World Bank.
“They called me and explained the motives involved. They said ‘It’s about enlightening people about the dangers involved,’ ” recalled one singer, Fattoumatta Sandeng, 21. “It sounded noble.”
The songs and the concert don’t appear to be dissuading anyone. Massive numbers of Gambians have continued leaving for Europe this year, many of them dying on the way.
“These are the kinds of things you do even though they have minimal impact,” said Demetrios G. Papademetriou, president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank devoted to the study of migration. “They give governments a sense that they’re doing something.”
Attendance was poor at the concert. Even the performers couldn’t persuade many of their friends to come. As part of the campaign, U.S. diplomats spoke to Gambian media outlets about the opportunities for young people in the country. But even by the standards of sub-Saharan Africa, those opportunities are limited.
“A lot of people are planning to go the Backway, and they didn’t see the reason to go to a concert like that,” Sandeng said.
The songs are in four languages: Wollof, Mandinka, Sarrahule and English. They range from soulful ballads to anthemic hip-hop songs. Some touched on the reasons many are leaving.
“It’s hard to survive off of $50 a month,” sang one artist, Killa Ace.