Gambia’s Top Wrestler Dies As An Illegal Immigrant In The Mediterranean Sea

By Kevin Mwanza Published: November 14, 2016, 6:44 am

Gambia’s renowned wrestler, Ali Mbengu, died about a week ago after a boat he was in with other illegal immigrant trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea capsized.

His death came only days after Fatim Jawar, Gambia’s women’s football team goalkeeper, died under similar circumstances.

Mbengu, popularly called ‘Mille Franc’ (Thousand Franc) was trying to cross into Italy from Libya, two years after settling in the North African nation in search of funds to pay for the perilous journey like most Africans into Europe.

“His plan was to cross to Italy by boat. One of the survivors called his brother and informed him about the incident. The caller told the brother that only 10 people survived when the boat capsized on the high seas,” Pateh Nying, Mbengu’s coach told AFP.

The Gambia Wrestling Federation (GWF) advised the nation’s wrestlers to avoid the risky journey into Europe.

Mbengu was in his early twenties and one of the nation’s finest wrestlers, having made his debut in 2012. The sport is one of Gambia’s oldest disciplines and the nation is revered for its wrestling festivals, alongside its West African neighbor of Senegal.

The tiny West African has in past lost several top wrestlers to European nations, CCTV Africa reported.

Jawara and Mbengu, two of Gambia’s most promising sportspersons are now part of the thousands of Africans who have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while illegally crossing into Europe in search of employment opportunities and better lives.

Their deaths came four years after Samia Yusuf Omar, a promising Somalia sprinter drowned in a similar journey in April 2012.

She was aged 21 years at the time of her death as she tried to cross into Europe in search of better facilities to realize her athletics dream.

At least 3,000 illegal immigrants have died in the Mediterranean this year, while trying to cross into Europe from Libya, United Nations News Centre reported.

Gambia, is one of the poorest nations in sub-Saharan Africa with at least 70 percent of the population living on less than $2 per day.

Lack of employment, high levels of poverty and politically-fueled persecution are the leading causes of Africans illegally trying to cross into Europe, through one of the most dangerous sea-routes.

The boats used to illegally cross into Europe are inflatable but lack enough fuel and mostly are without captains or guides, making the sea journey one of the most dangerous in the world.

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