Nothing on earth could prevent a desperate young man whose desire is to seek for better life outside the shores of Ghana.
The saying “when the die is cast no amount of witchery or prayers can prevent the crossing of the Rubicon” can be likened to the case of a desperate young Ghanaian migrant.
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Frank Owusu, 21, as he is known seems to be so passionate about embarking on a trip to Europe all in the name of finding a job to make a good living and support his family back home.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Frank is poised to go to any limit to ensure his plan to embark on deadly voyage through the Sahara Desert and the deep blue Mediterranean Sea in the hope of reaching his dreamland, Europe materialized.
By hook or by crook, Frank must realize his dream, as he vowed never to look back on anything that is likely to hinder his objectives.
An attempt many African youths have made which brought their lives to a halt while others were exposed to all kinds of torture, suffering and other human rights violations.
Despite the fact that some undocumented African migrants are fortunate to have survived the journey, the majority of them have perished under various mysterious circumstances in attempt to cross over either the Sahara Desert or the Mediterranean Sea en route Europe or the Americas.
Frank who currently resides in Accra, first migrated from Pakyi No 2, a town located close to Kejetia in the Amansie West District of the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
I caught up with him on Thursday March 30, 2019 during my visited to the lorry station at Tudu in Accra to pick a bus home on my way from work.
He sat down quietly under a small makeshift tent with a laptop computer on table in front of him.
Frank wears a somber look. A careful look at him from afar tells me he might be experiencing some troubling moment.
Touched by sight and moved by my instinct, I quickly approached him to find out if he has any problem which needs fixing to see if I can be of help in anyway as I often do to people in distress.
Distraught as he seems, Frank opened up to me about his woes. He narrated how he was robbed at a gun point by three (3) well-built men who visited his stand the previous night and made away with all his valuables including monies he had saved out of business for the past one month.
“They took away everything I have labored for including my Laptop, 2 of my personal mobile phones including 15 mobile phones which belongs to my customers”.
He explained the activities of the robbers has left him empty stomached (without food) since morning simply because he has no money to left on him to buy food. I was really touched by his plight and therefore offered him an amount of money which he used to buy food for himself.
Upon interacting with him for a while, I found out that his kind of business is, downloading of songs from the internet (either burning them on CDs or copying them unto pen drives of clients for a fee). A business considered by the authorities as illegal since it amounts to the infringement of the copyrights of musicians.
Downloading of songs from the internet for money, according to the law of Ghana is termed a criminal offence, which when caught as a perpetrator, one is likely to serve a jail term of five years or more including seizure or loss of monies acquired throughout the entire period of operation.
The poor boy told me that he is very much aware of the illegal nature of the business including the consequences that awaits him when caught in the act but in actual fact has no choice to quit since it’s his only way of survival in life.
It then dawned on me that Frank operates from the Tudu transport station in Accra exactly where I met him.
Tudu Station in Accra is a big area where various buses plying almost all the routes in the city are parked where commuters converge to pick those buses to their traveling destinations.
It is the same yard which also serves as a hub where all kinds of business activities thrive including Frank’s kind of business.
Actually Frank is not the only person involved in this illegal business. Just a glance around and you’re sure to find a couple of young men who are also engaged in similar activities for living.
To download a song from the internet is not a difficult task but you have to master the technical knowhow involved to make an impact. All you need is an internet modem, a Laptop computer and a sound woofer which blares the sounds played from the computer to the hearing of the public. Once the music hits the people around and they fall in love with the tune, you’re good to go to get your money as Frank usually do in the line of his business.
“In addition to the downloads of tracks, I also charge phones for a fee but I only get a meager fee for it unlike the music downloads a little okay on the high side”. I sometimes make let’s say GHC40.00 or sometimes GHC 50.00 daily when business is good”.
I also got to know that the very makeshift structure(tent) under which he operates during day equally serves as a roof over his head at night.
He told me the lorry station has become a den of criminals who patronize the place at night, attacking and robbing people out of their belongings which he himself has fallen a victim to on several occasions. For him, that has been his greatest challenge so far in his line of business.
“Even though once in a while you can get arrested by the police, all you have to do is yield to their request to pay any amount they require from you and you’re safe. But for the activities of robbers, it’s just a nightmare”.
” I’ve been robbed on several occasions which I had to always fall on the little savings in bank to buy my equipment over and over again. In fact, I’m really tired of this business”.
In my bid to understand the root cause of his problem, I posed this question to him:“Do you know you’re supposed to be in school, and not working”? he immediately replied: “actually my mom including my Dad don’t have money therefore I chose to be here to make small money so I can be of help to them”.
Frank speaks good French in addition to the English Language. When I asked him, how come he is able to speak French fluently, he told me he was born in Ivory Coast to her Ghanaian parents who were both living there at the time but when he turned 11 years, her mum travelled with her back to Ghana.
He revealed to me he’s the last born of his parents after the birth of his three (3) brothers(senior) who are currently wallowing in poverty despite managing a small-scale farming business in their hometown which is problematic (not yielding any good returns) to them.
“Indeed, life has become unbearable for my whole family since my mum felt sick with broken limb and cannot afford to cater for our needs”.
Frank had completed Junior High School(JHS) by the grace of God but dropped out of Senior High School(SHS) at form two (2) in 2016 due to his inability to pay his school fees. His colleagues at Dompoase Senior High School could not come to terms of his predicament, although they sympathize with, there’s absolutely nothing they could do to assist him.
Narrating his ordeal during his childhood days, he said: “I started taking care of myself and my education at the primary school level knowing very well my parents are not cannot support me”.
“I had to sell fan milk products like fan ice, yoghurt etc, sometimes pure water and even newspapers in marketplaces to raise money to pay my school fees.”
“Times were very hard for me so I quit school to look for a better job elsewhere and that was what informed my decision to migrate to the city” (Accra).
According to Frank, after job hunting incessantly in the city without hope, he resorted to the illegal way of doing business.
He made me aware that despite the challenges associated with his job, his
sick mum and three (3) brothers back home often depend on him for support.
A responsibility which he bears, demanding that he always send remittances back home for their upkeep.
The saying that a good research work is capable of revealing a fact about a phenomenon cannot be overemphasized in this regard, as it has now dawned on me why a school-going age boy like Frank should be involved an illegal business of this sort for survival.
In fact, the root cause of Frank’s problem can be traced to his poor background, no wonder the kind of situation he found himself in presently.
As the saying “desperate times call for desperate measures” can be attributed vividly in the case of Frank Owusu.
I tried to find out from Frank finally what are his future plan or betters still what will he be doing to change his narrative despite the sad situation he found himself, as any good journalist will do.
I was flabbergasted when he opened up to me and said that he can no longer cope up with life here in Ghana. For him nothing good works in Ghana considering the myriad of challenges and hardships he had to endure daily before getting his daily bread.
The regrettable activities of armed robbers, the destruction of his possessions sometimes due to heavy downpour coupled with the harassment from the police as well as the jail term he will be made to serve when caught by the authorities are enough grounds for him to quit his so-called ‘illegal job” (which is not even lucrative) and leave for a place he believes he can always find a better life. Frank finally confided me the idea of travelling outside the shores of Ghana with a hope of finding a good job so he can continue to cater for himself and his family.
“My dream is to become a soldier or a police officer who can render selfless service with diligence and integrity to my dear nation but without good education, is there any hope for me? he quizzed.
He told me he had heard frightening stories about most African youths dying mysteriously trying to cross over the Sahara Desert to get to Europe but he is not perturbed a bit about the consequences simply because, he is so determined to make it no matter the cost therefore God will see him through.
“In life, you’re only meant to die once after that judgment awaits you, so why should I be afraid to die”? he asked.
“You see I’d rather die a hustler in Europe than remain a pauper in Ghana”., he stressed.
When asked what will be his route and final destination, he replied: “I’ll first make it to Niger, move on to Libya and cross both the desert and the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, then move on to Spain and continue from there to America”.
From the tone of his voice and his mannerism, I could feel the kind of desperation he exudes about achieving his plans. In fact, hearing him alone saying all these words made me shiver as a journalist since I have heard dreadful stories about such a torturous journey including interviewed relatives of migrants who died in mysterious ways while crossing the Sahara Desert but not from a guy like him.
One of such stories was about a 39-year old Prince Amoh-Ayensu, a vibrant Ghanaian migrant who met his untimely death under mysterious circumstance while on transit through the Sahara Desert to Italy enroute Libya. His bizarre story is still fresh in my mind as I continue to tell the story of Frank. How could I forget when it was just last year the tragic incident happened.
But make no mistakes at all, Frank is not alone in the desire to risk all to take the dreaded trip to Europe in the hope of finding a job.
In many other African countries, men between the ages of 18 and 40 years’ head to North Africa every year along well-established migrant smuggling routes, then board boats to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.
To reach North Africa they travel for days under harsh desert weather conditions, suffering abuse from people smugglers and criminal networks while parting with huge sums of money for the journey. A good number get stranded in transit countries, forcing some to return to their countries of origin.
Migration provides immense opportunities and benefits – for the migrants, host communities, communities of origin and destination. However, when poorly regulated it can also create significant challenges. These challenges include overwhelming social infrastructures with the unexpected arrival of large numbers of people and the deaths of migrants undertaking dangerous journeys. For the fifth straight year, IOM has witnessed the deaths of at least 2,000 irregular migrants seeking to reach Europe via the Mediterranean alone.
Movement from Ghana to other parts of the world has grown substantially in recent times. For instance, many young Ghanaians attempt to reach Europe in search of greener pastures by travelling irregularly through Libya because of misinformation and limited opportunities for safe and regular migration.
According to the International Organization for Migration(IOM), at least 60,000 migrants have died since 2000. Similarly, since the beginning of 2014, IOM has recorded the deaths and disappearances of over 22,500 migrants and explains that the death rate has increased at the Mediterranean region from 1.2 percent in the first half of 2016, to 2.1 per cent in the first half of 2017.
A new record of IOM also indicated that more than 6,600 Africans have died over the past five years, most while crossing the Sahara Desert toward Europe. However, the study notes these numbers are “just the tip of the iceberg”.
It is shocking to note that last year alone, hundreds of eye-witness accounts have confirmed nearly 1,400 migrant deaths on the African continent. But researchers say these numbers represent only a tiny fraction of the overall number of deaths of people on the move in Africa.
So what at all has been the push factors for African youth risking their all in the name of leaving their countries to another in a far away lands?
I doubt if not poverty and lack of opportunities. We’ll it is so obvious taking into consideration various cases including that of the story of Prince Amoh Ayensu(deceased) as well as Frank Owusu who is also in the process of embarking on similar tangent.
Similarly, a current Afrobarometer report cited about half of two groups that are critical to African countries’ economic future, the young and the highly educated, have considered emigrating in search of greener pastures.
Among the nine countries surveyed in 2017, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Benin, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Malawi, Uganda, Mali and Nigeria, Zimbabwe tops as the highest proportion of young potential emigrants.
It’s obvious the problem with African youth who are so desperate about finding a better job outside their home countries can be attributed to poverty and lack of opportunities. But these problems will forever remain with us if proper measures are not employed by the authorities to deal with them holistically.
I don’t think the youth of Africa for that matter Ghana should continue to perish in the Sahara Desert or drown in the Mediterranean Sea all in the name of finding jobs somewhere when our beloved country is blessed with rich minerals like gold, diamond, petroleum, manganese, silver among others. What is required of us a continent is good leadership backed by careful management of our natural resources to avert these calamities which are gradually destroying our future generations.
In conclusion, Ghanaian youth deserve jobs, quality education and better living conditions stay in their own country to work and contribute their quota to the development of the nation. I believe a person like Frank Owusu who is currently hitting on a devious plan to embark on a torturous journey outside the shores of Ghana deserve to go back to school to realize his future dream of becoming either a police officer or a soldier so he can contribute his quota meaningfully to the growth of this country.
I hereby called on all well-meaning Ghanaians, government, corporate institutions, civil society organizations and NGOs in the country including the UN Organizations and the International Organizations such as the International Organization for Migration(IOM) and the European Union(EU) to come to the aid of Frank and assist him to achieve his future dreams.
To support Frank, give him a call on 0243676813 or send him an email via email@example.com.
I commend the IOM and EU for their unflinching support in the rescue and bringing home of 1001 vulnerable Ghanaian migrants who were stranded en route to Europe. I also the urge European Union to help extend the three year EU-IOM joint Initiative that it is funding which focused on Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Ghana to five years to save mother Ghana from losing its loved ones.
By Joseph Kobla Wemakor