German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses the media after talks in Berlin on October 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZ

Migration will be the vertex of German president’s visit to Gambia

The German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be in The Gambia on Wednesday in the first visit by a European leader to the West African nation in two decades.

Europe’s migration crisis will be the center point of discussions between Steinmeier and Gambia’s President Adama Barrow, who defeated then-autocratic ruler Yahya Jammeh, returning the country to democratic rule.

The Gambia has had a mass exodus of immigrants to Europe in the last decade of Jammeh’s presidency. The country last year had the third largest number of arrivals per capita to Europe via the Mediterranean.

Even under Jammeh, a majority of Gambian asylum seekers were denied refugee cited, being considered economic migrants. Claims by more than 78 percent of them were rejected by European authorities.

Germany has been a hub for Gambian migrants since the 1990s. It is home to at least 15,000 documented Gambians. The September election was seen as a test for German’s compassion for migrants.

Although President Adama Barrow has rejected Europe’s mass deportation offer, asking EU leaders to examine the matter from a holistic perspective, the EU has been seeking to tighten its borders and mulled visa restrictions on the small country.

At least 1,700 Gambian migrants have been repatriated to The Gambia since April, shortening cut their perilous journey across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Steinmeier may be meeting with some of the returnees and would discuss migration and reintegration of migrants at a technical training institute just outside the Gambia’s capital, Banjul.

EU has been encouraging the use of technical services to create jobs. Since February, it injected at least $27 million Euro, more than $22 million of which is a grant meant to help Gambia’s youth stay home and help rebuild their nation.

Deep divisions on immigration and climate policy stalled Germany’s coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel trying to unite her divided conservative alliance, which suffered bruising losses in a national election.

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