Al Hadji Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, President of the Gambia, addresses the general debate of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly.
24/Sep/2009. United Nations, New York. UN Photo/Erin Siegal.

Mr. President, refugees are not job seekers

President Yahya Jammeh has vowed that by mid-2017, “White people will be coming here as refugees looking for jobs.” But Mr. President, your assumption is not just wrong, your belief of refugees is way off too.

Many Gambians were denied asylum in Europe because they are considered economic migrants looking for jobs, not refugees, although Gambians are faced with persecution and one of the worst human rights crisis.

Mr. President: a refugee is not a job seeker. A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.

Mr. President: a refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group and not someone seeking for a job.

Therefore Mr. President: a ‘white refugee’ would not be ever looking for a job in The Gambia and I do know will never be looking for protection from one of the world’s most brutal unknown tyrant. Those that would do so are indeed not refugees seeking protection, but criminals that you can connive with.

Refugees are those people with their families who were doing very well in The Gambia but were ill-treated and faced hostility from your government because of their political and religious beliefs. They are now in exile in Europe and America, even in Senegal and Mali not because they want jobs, but because they are opposition supporters and belong to minority Islamic sects or other religious groups like Christians.

Mr. President: if Rohingya refugees would not be resettled in The Gambia, I wonder what makes you think that “white refugees” will be resettled in The Gambia. I promise you, “white refugees” will need long summers away from the cold winters they grew up in. I, therefore, do not think they will pass the Sahara with its beautiful Oasis to live in or seek jobs in a country with a battered economy and raped constitution.

Economic migrants from The Gambia, however, are not just running away from bad economic policies that made their life and that of their families miserable, they are also running away from the injustice meted on them and the bad governance that has plagued the Jammeh administration.

But Jammeh’s definition of job seekers as refugees just shows how out of touch the man is and how he continues to use anti-Western sentiments and rhetoric to prey on the ignorance of the citizenry. Of course, political apathy is widespread in The Gambia and it has so far helped Jammeh remain in power.

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