The International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) in The Gambia, in collaboration with the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS), to facilitate evidence-based decision making on migration governance and response to the needs of vulnerable migrants.
DTM is IOM’s information system which tracks and monitors population mobility – capturing, processing, and disseminating information to provide a better understanding of the movements and evolving needs of people on the move in places of origin, transit and destination. Since 2008, DTM has been deployed in over 80 countries worldwide.
In recent years, Gambians have emigrated at a higher rate per capita than every other nation in Africa. Between 2015 and 2020, over 33,000 Gambians arrived in Europe irregularly, while over 6,000 have voluntarily returned home since 2017 with support from IOM.
Despite this, there are significant migration data gaps in a country of 2.4 million people. Migration data has traditionally been collected inconsistently and seasonally. As a result, the full extent of migration remains uncertain, given the country’s highly porous borders.
“Given the significance of migration to The Gambia’s social fabric, gaining a more comprehensive picture of mobility is critical, especially to enhance preparedness and response to the needs of migrants,” underscores Stephen Matete, IOM’s Immigration and Border Management Programme Manager in The Gambia. “Only when we understand who is migrating where and for what reasons can we design appropriate policies and interventions to better govern migration and promote migrants’ rights.”
The tool was piloted in The Gambia from 10 to 11 June, after 15 enumerators were trained on data collection. Four locations –Barra, Basse, Brikama and Farafenni – were identified as Flow Monitoring Points (FMPs), which will calculate quantitative estimates of migrant movements. The locations were selected for being areas of high transit, following a participatory mapping by stakeholders during a national consultation forum in November 2020 and a series of regional consultations in January 2021 with local stakeholders.
The surveys will collect information on migrant demographics, social and economic profiles; journey history and routes; migration motivations and intentions; and the impact of COVID-19 on mobility. In turn, the DTM data will be useful to government, humanitarian and development actors to inform policymaking, as well as identifying and responding to the needs of vulnerable migrants.
For The Gambia, this tool comes at a crucial time, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact mobility trends and there is a resurgence of boat departures from West Africa to the Canary Islands.
“The pandemic creates another layer of vulnerability for migrants. The surveys will thus help us understand how COVID-19 has shaped migration decisions and the nature of the journeys themselves,” adds Dr. Simeonette De Asis, IOM’s Migration Health Officer in The Gambia. “Furthermore, quality, trustworthy data contributes to a better understanding of migrants’ needs and vulnerabilities, which can help address sources of potential tension and conflict.”
Data collection commenced on 14 June and will continue for an initial period of nine months.
This initiative forms part of Strengthening the Sustainable and Holistic Reintegration of Returnees, a project funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund and implemented by IOM in collaboration with the International Trade Centre and the UN Population Fund.