“We should not refer to irregular migrants as illegal migrants, because they are not illegal. Human beings cannot be illegal.”
Since I was a child, I always knew I wanted to be a journalist. I love to read, write and share stories, so journalism has always been my passion. Even though I always knew this, I never thought I would end up writing stories about migration. Now as a first-year journalism student at the University of The Gambia, I am learning how to cover all kinds of stories for the news.
Even though there is a variety of stories we need to write about as journalists, stories about migration will always be close to my heart. I even cry when I hear some of the stories from irregular migrants. My own brother went through the backway, and I remember thinking we were going to lose him forever.
In general, there is lack of understanding about migration, which is reflected in how we talk about migrants. One of the most important terms I’ve learned is irregular migration. We should not refer to irregular migrants as illegal, because they are not illegal. Human beings cannot be illegal.
Part of the reason many people misunderstand migrants and returnees is due to all the misinformation about migration here in The Gambia. It is important for us journalists to know the international norms and practices that are in place, so we don’t misinform or mislead the public. Doing so could cause more problems for both ourselves and migrants. So, to avoid this, one thing we are doing is combatting the spread of misinformation. At the Gambia Press Union (GPU), we have a particular body where our leaders organize trainings, workshops and train journalists on ethical reporting and how to stop the spread of misinformation.
As a reporter I have a duty to inform the public with accurate and reliable information. We should not stop migration, but we should minimize people migrating irregularly. With all the dangers on the journey, people have lost their lives. The consequences are just beyond measure. As I continue to learn about journalism, I plan to use my stories to inform people about the truth of irregular migration so they can make informed decisions.
Fatou Kebbeh is one of 35 journalism students from the University of The Gambia Journalism Students’ Association who participated in a two-day training on migration reporting as part of the project “Strengthening Communication on Migration in The Gambia.”