With democracy now in The Gambia, many of the West African nation’s citizens that have pending asylum cases risk having their request for protection denied.
This is, however, not a new trend. At least 75 percent of Gambian arrivals in Europe are considered to be economic migrants and were all denied political asylum even though the country was under the autocratic rule of Yahya Jammeh.
Gambia has the third largest arrival by sea to Europe per capita. EU leaders are trying to put a stop to the mass human exodus from this small nation, where more than 72 percent of its rural community live in abject poverty.
Most of Gambia’s migrant crossing the Mediterranean into Europe are from these rural communities and The Gambia wants greater European partnership to address push factors such as poverty and good paying jobs.
Gambia has drafted a National Migration Policy, which will provide an appropriate legal framework for monitoring and regulate internal and international migration, and proper collection and dissemination of migration data.
Since new President Adama Barrow came to power, the EU has released at least $38 million withheld over former President Yahya Jammeh’s rights abuses, put up a $12.8 million grant program to help youth entrepreneurs, and pumped more than $75 million in budget and development aid in less than six months.
“We urge our European partners to act in partnership on the root causes of migration; poverty, climate change, lack of democratic spaces, violations of human rights, and opportunities for life,” said Gambia’s Minister of Homeland Security, Mai Ahmad Fatty.
“This policy should be anchored on the ideals of African solidarity as well as shared values, and informed by existing African Union frameworks.”
The European Union has been working with African countries to curb the sick issue of mass migration, and The Gambia remains the bloc’s closest partner. The Gambia remains a migrant producing nation and has in the past decade lost a swathe of young citizens to the back way.
The EU envoy to The Gambia, Attila Lajos said leaders of the European bloc are willing to work with The Gambia to address the migration and development challenges.
“As migration is a cross-cutting theme, the development of comprehensive and holistic systems that protect the rights of migrants and ensure that migration is both safe and beneficial for the migrants and the country as a whole would require a whole-of-government approach..” said IOM’s Fumiko Nagano.
Gambia became a symbol for democratic change earlier this year when former dictator Yahya Jammeh was peacefully ousted through the ballot box. However, more than two decades of dictatorship have left their mark on this tiny country in West Africa.
The new government led by Adama Barrow has its work cut out to rebuild the country. Gambians were among the top nationalities leaving West Africa for Italy in 2016.
But since Jammeh’s ouster, more than a thousand Gambian have returned. The majority of them were repatriated from war-torn Libya, where they have been kidnapped and imprisoned in deplorable conditions.
Bulli Dibba the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of the Interior said The Gambia can’t afford to ignore migration and its impact, recognizing the strong links between migration and national development.
“It has become imperative for the country to be more proactive in developing programmes to harness the benefits of organized migration for national development in line with the transformation agenda of President Adama Barrow,” Dibba said.
Migration can be beneficial to both sending and receiving countries but for the Gambia, remittances sent from Western nations make up to 22 percent of the GDP, leaving authorities very cautious over deportation.
The government has consistently denied rumors that they are accepting development packages in exchange for accepting deportees but the fact remains that the country’s economic redevelopment has been heavily politicized.
The new coalition government has made tackling irregular migration a priority. It plans to focus on creating jobs and training opportunities to reduce the 40 percent unemployment rate among young people, the main push factor behind The Gambia’s exodus.