By Mustapha Jallow
Batokunku, 20th March, 2021: Jerreh Jatta, the Alkalo of Batokunku on Friday told Foroyaa that a total of 250 Senegalese migrants who fled their Sanyang homes to neighbouring Batokunku village are secure and safe in their community.
They fled Sanyang after violence erupted there on 15th March 2021, when a mob burned-down a Police station and the Nessim Fishmeal Company in Sanyang after the stabbing and killing of a native, Gibril Ceesay, by an assailant, purported to be a Senegalese national.
The death of Gibril resulted to an attack on innocent Senegalese nationals staying in Sanyang, who quickly fled with their children due to fear for their lives.
Jatta said: “The migrants are safe and secure in my community. They feel very comfortable and accommodated by me through the VDC and other village elders.’’
On the second day, according to him, they received a helping hand from the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) who provided them with 2 bags of rice and sugar. He described these as a quick response from the agency.
He explained that the agency did not only stop there but they later provided them with 40 bags of sugar, rice, some gallons of cooking oil and bags of onion. He said 98 new large mattresses were also brought for the migrants by the agency.
Jatta said that though they initially faced some difficulties with water supply because the tap at the camp had a problem, the head of the armed forces rescued them by repairing the tap immediately, so that the migrants now have access to water.
He explained further that the toilet facilitates were inspected by Red Cross Officers, who then cleaned and sanitized them.
Regarding their health, Alkalo Jatta said some migrants later fell sick and health officers were attending each of them and provided medication for them.
“Right now we have some sick people inside but they are undergoing treatment through the help of Tujereang health centre. You know Batakunku does not have any health centre,’’ he said.
According to Jatta, the only problem they are facing now is lack of tents to deal with the problem of accommodation, saying some migrants spend the night at the veranda. He therefore called on relevant authorities to help provide the migrants with tents.
Jatta said his community is also provided with security from various security units, adding that they are all over patrolling the community both day and night to ensure the migrants and his community are safe and secure.
“So, there is no threat at Batakunku beach site too,’’ he boasted.
The Alkalo thanked the authorities for providing them with security and food for migrants. He was also pleased with his community members, especially women who left their work only to come and cook for the migrants.
Giving a brief account on how it started, he said the migrants started arriving at 7pm on that same day of the Sanyang incident, when he received a phone call from the Batakunku fishing centre that some Senegalese nationals have arrived at our fishing centre with their boats. He added that they came with their fishing boats to the landing site at Batakunku beside the lake. “I rushed to the fishing site and I met a lot of them (Senegalese),” he explained.
He said, the migrants asked whether they were welcome in Batakunku because they were not ready to return to Sanyang. He added that due to fear some decided to stay in the waters with their boats until they were later convinced to join their colleagues. I told them you are very welcome here but some were still in a state of fear and they remained in the waters,’’ he said. According to Jatta, some decided to remain in the waters until the following day, 16th March, when they were eventually convinced to disembark and join the rest at the camp.
During this reporter’s visit, it was observed that the Senegalese migrants were lodged at a school building. The building was under tight security comprising paramilitary, immigration officers, men in civilian clothes believed to be agents of the National Intelligence Agency or secret Police officers inside their tinted glass vehicles.
But Alkalo assured their presence was to provide the migrants and community members full security. A patrol vehicle of the Police was seen parked within the camp.
One could observe relatives and friends who came along from Sanyang trooping in and out of the building. Close relatives such as husbands and wives could be seen hugging each other as they reunited.
The 250 migrants were accommodated separately with the males staying in the school building, while the females, pregnant women and children at the Batakunku imam’s compound.
Attempts to speak to the them were unsuccessful as permission had to be sought from senior officials who were not accessible at the time.
A senior security officer told this reporter that talks were currently ongoing in Sanyang on Friday.