The European Union is deciding to place to restrict visas for Gambian officials and foreign aid to the country for not taking back deported nationals, who have exhausted all legal means to stay in Europe.
Most of the deportees are people that have failed in their asylum bid to remain in Europe, a number likely to spike following the ouster of the long-serving autocratic ruler, Yahya Jammeh.
The visa restriction will affect political leaders and topmost businessmen associated with the government of President Adama Barrow and its agencies, target the ruling elites.
The EU is cracking down on immigration following a spike in arrivals across the Mediterranean since 2014. The Gambia, although small make up the third largest arrival by proportion.
It is Gambia’s biggest donor partner and has since January pumped more than $120 million into the country to help revive its economy and create jobs to keep its youths back home.
European Union leaders unfroze at least $38 million that was withheld over Jammeh’s deteriorating human rights conditions but released it to the Barrow government in January.
President Barrow had declined to sign a repatriation pact that would see the mass deportation of his citizens from EU nations, calling it “a sensitive matter that needs to be addressed through a holistic approach.”
Some countries, including Gambia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Bangladesh, and Nigeria, are often reluctant to readmit their citizens and the EU has recently doubled down on efforts to expedite such returns.
The countries may also see visa restrictions placed on their ruling elites and have foreign aid limited until they participate in the so-called mass deportations.
At least 13,000 Gambians have applied for asylum in EU nations last year and more than 75 percent of them were considered economic migrants, and their applications were rejected.
Gambia is struggling to have the United States reverse a similar visa restriction placed on its officials by the Obama Administration last year, during the tenure of Mr. Jammeh for refusing to accept nearly 2,000 of its citizens the U.S. is trying to deport.
The economies of many African nations rely on remittances back home. Gambians in Europe sent more than $100 million, making up more than 22 percent of the country’s GDP.
Since Barrow’s coming to power, more than 370 Gambians stranded en route to Europe via the Mediterranean have been repatriated by the new government.
The number of Gambian arrivals by sea to Europe has taken a significant nosedive since, but with frustrations being renewed, the trend of returning is taking a reverse to seeing a new spike in the mass exodus.