Foreign Minister comments on deportations and the plight of Gambian migrants

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Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Dr. Mamadou Tangara

For the first time, the Gambia’s foreign minister has openly commented about recent mass deportations of Gambian migrants from the European Union and the plight of other migrants in Tunisia, Libya, and elsewhere expressing gov’t concern over the issues.

The chief Gambian diplomat, Momodou Tangara, spoke to the local media about the ongoing foreign and diplomatic work to ensure the safety of Gambian migrants worldwide.

He told the media that the Government is fully committed to protecting the rights and welfare of Gambian migrants, saying efforts are underway to resolve the situation by evacuating those in dire need.

Dr. Tangara said the Barrow administration is at the final stage of signing bilateral agreements with Spain and Italy, allowing Gambians to travel regularly to Europe seasonally for employment.

On the good practice document that has been a point of discussion among migrants’ rights activities and citizens, Tangara said it is an agreement on a readmission arrangement between the Gambia and the European Union initiating a standard operating procedure for managing returns of those migrants who have exhausted their rights to stay in any EU member state or a readmission arrangement on modalities for return agreed by both parties in 2018 with implementation starting in 2019.

He also highlighted the comprehensive and mutually beneficial partnership on migration agreed with the European Union and member states to consider the plight of Gambian nationals currently within the jurisdiction and have been law-abiding with processes for integration.

Dr. Tangara explained that the removal or return of Gambian nationals from any European Union member state is exclusively under the purview and authority of that country while referring to the international customary law, which he said includes the Gambia as a country of origin for any of its nationals who exhausted all legal remedies to stay in that country to readmit them.

Meanwhile, a prominent migration activist, Yahya Sonko, told Alkamba Times Following the arrival of a group of 25 deportees from Europe, mainly from Germany, on February 2, 2023, the Gambia government would continue to accept its citizens every two months from the European Union as per the ‘good practice’ deal.

Mr. Sonko said the trend, which started in 2018, is enforced by an agreement document called the “Good Practice” signed between the Gambia and the EU.

According to Sonko, the document allows the EU to deport Gambian citizens monthly while requesting the Gambia to accept the flights. However, that seems impossible for the West African nation, which preferred to receive a flight every two months.

However, the Gambia government earlier denied signing this agreement— forcing rights activists to probe into the matter — eventually leading to the document’s leaking.

“They signed this document sometime in April 2018 but denied doing so. It was when some activists stood up, then the document got leaked and published by the EU,” Sonko added.

“EU is relying on this consensus with the Gambia to deport these people. The German Government says any Gambian citizen who requested asylum and exhausted all their legal chances of staying in Germany will be deported based on the agreement,” he said.

Two years ago, the Interior Minister of Baden-Württemberg said more than 2600 Gambians were ready for deportation if the Gambia government gave Germany a flight landing permit.

Meanwhile, in 2019, a massive demonstration by the Gambia Refugee Association in Europe forced the EU and the Gambia to announce a moratorium on deportation until further notice.

Sonko, however, stressed that the priority of the Government should be creating a proper integration mechanism for deportees in their societies to ensure they contribute to the peace and security of the country while challenging families and relatives to accept them, not as losers.

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