Amid cries over the enslaving of African migrants in Libya, ousted security minister of mainland Africa’s smallest nation is robbing on the faces of his critics that he has done an above and beyond work to help repatriate the Gambia’s citizens.
Mai Ahmad Fatty, a politician and lawyer that was fired two weeks ago from the cabinet of the country’s new leader, Adama Barrow is taking the credit for the return of at least 1,400 migrants since April from Libya.
“As Interior Minister, I facilitated the voluntary return of over 1,400 Gambians from harms way in Libya. At the time of my departure from the Ministry two weeks ago, in partnership with the IOM, I had already successfully negotiated the voluntary return of another 160 Gambians by air, scheduled for this November 30th, and that’s still on course, despite my departure,” Fatty said.
While attending a meeting of African security ministers in the Rwanda’s capital, Kigali on migration, Fatty did confront Libya’s homeland security minister, Ashour Suleiman Shuwail over the treatment of Gambians in the troubled North African state.
Fatty said he and Mr. Shuwail, a retired Libyan police officer agreed to meet in Tripoli in December, a trip he did not stay long enough in Barrow’s cabinet to materialize.
Most Gambians that were repatriated from Libya through a joint program between the Barrow administration and the UN’s migration agency were held in inhumane conditions at detention centers – some ran by the government and others by militia groups.
“We agreed for me to visit Libya next month, including three major detention centers there and facilitate the liberty of our nationals in both government and militia-held areas. My heart bleeds for my people trapped in Libya and along the perilous migrant journey routes,” Fatty said.
Gambian returnees from Libya reported being kidnapped, tortured and starved. Libyan authorities have launched a formal investigation into slave auctions in the country and human rights abuses, a probe welcomed by the IOM.
Barrow’s government declined to explain why Mr. Fatty was sacked but Press Secretary Amie Bojang-Sissoho said it was for the best interest of the Gambia. Whatever that means is up to interpretation by those with inside sources.
It is clear that Fatty is out to polish is public image and stay relevant in the crowded political field, showing that he has done a great deal of a job during his 10 months as Minister of Interior.
During the period he served, a human rights unit has been formed at the Ministry of Interior and a Prisons Reform Commission established, initiatives that have been lauded by activists and the international community.
Gambia has been working with its international partners to keep its citizens at home and prevent them from taking the perilous journey that takes them through the Sahara and across the Mediterranean in search of better opportunities in Europe.
Libya has long struggled to cope with an influx of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, many of whom hope to transit in Libya before traveling to Europe with the help of smugglers.
Estimates from the United Nations put the number of migrants in Libya at 700,000. For years, migrants crossing the Mediterranean have brought with them stories of beatings, kidnapping, and enslavement.