Gambia has entered into no repatriation pact with any Western nation. Not under the Barrow Administration as long as we know. In fact, trusted sources at the Foreign Affairs Office have all confirmed that even the Jammeh Administration has no such policy in place.
It is true that the Gambia could be subjected to targeted restrictions such as the one imposed by the Obama Administration. The then U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson did put a visa restriction on Gambian officials for not accepting deportees.
Former President Yahya Jammeh said “he did not care what kind of restrictions the U.S. placed on his regime at the time. This was also his reaction to the country’s removal from AGOA [the U.S. trade agreement benefiting Africa].”
At the ministry level, Foreign Minister Neneh MacDouall Gaye contacted U.S. authorities and put in place a policy of cooperation to have Gambians, who are out of status and committed crimes in the U.S. deported.
Jammeh was kept out of the loop on this cooperation agreement between The Gambia and the U.S.
“He [Jammeh] was not aware that this cooperation agreement was in place. Every time he asked, he was told that the U.S. has not said anything about removing the restriction,” a senior presidential official said.
“The restrictions were not affecting Jammeh and his family. They were actually affecting other ordinary Gambians and officials that have important missions to carry out.”
MacDouall Gaye’s policy of cooperation was, however, not enough for the U.S. to remove the restrictions. The ouster of Jammeh would have made one thought that the U.S. would remove the visa restriction but it goes on to show what many activists and Jammeh’s opponents celebrated as “house arrest” for Jammeh’s wife and children were not political.
The Barrow Administration has agreed to continue MacDouall Gaye’s cooperation policy and said its citizens that are illegally staying in other nations and have committed crimes will be accepted when deported.
But this does not amount to signing a deportation agreement. President Barrow was put under pressure during his visit to Europe to sign a repatriation pact and he outright rejected it. He instead urged EU leaders to approach the matter from a holistic perspective.
Barrow, Foreign Minister Darboe, and Interior Minister Mai Ahmad Fatty all said that no deportation agreement has been entered into.
Gambia does deport citizens of other nations who have committed crimes in the country. If Gambia does not accept its citizens under a deportation order, it means ordinary Gambians trying to travel to Europe or America will find it hard to secure visas.
The EU is considering putting limitation of Gambia’s political, business and social elites for the country’s failure to take back its citizens. This was fuel discontent as it did towards Jammeh but again, if deportees are accepted, there is still discontent towards the government.
This is because the people do not understand the dilemma involved in making such critical decisions.
Remittances from Europe are critical to Gambia’s economy. It makes up to 22 percent of the current GDP. This is as much as tourism and agriculture. It is, therefore, not in Gambia’s favor to accept deportees who have committed no crime neither in its advantage, if its citizens cannot travel and connect the small nation to the rest of the world.
However, as a responsible government, Gambian authorities cannot allow their citizens to wallow in immigration jails for years, having their rights violated. It has to make sure that does to be deported exhaust all appeals. This Minister Fatty has pledged would be the right approach.