Just hours after the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier left The Gambia, it dawns on the people of the small West African nation that at least 1,500 of its citizens are undocumented and risk deportation from the European nation.
More than 35,000 Gambians are resident in Germany, including many whose asylum cases are pending. Gambia’s citizens make up the third largest arrival per capita via the Mediterranean to Europe, and many choose Germany as their destination.
The 1,500 does not include asylum seekers. They are mostly those that have crossed into Germany illegally and later caught by law enforcement agencies.
A migrant is considered undocumented when a person illegally crosses a country’s border, in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destination country, with the intention to remain in the country without any record of the person.
Migration was a cornerstone of Steinmeier’s meeting with Gambia’s President Adama Barrow, who defeated longstanding autocratic ruler, Yahya Jammeh and returned the country to democratic rule.
Barrow, who has declined the signing of a repatriation pact during a visit to EU nations advocated that the issue of migration has to be addressed from a very holistic perspective. Migrants are a critical economic bloc to The Gambia with their remittances making up about 22 percent of the nation’s GDP.
Gambian authorities say it will accept the return of citizens that have committed crimes, convicted by a court and exhaust all appeals to stay in their host country, a policy has implemented since Washington placed visa restrictions on its officials last year.
The restrictions were waived Tuesday but the EU is considering placing a similar ban on The Gambia. However, The Gambia since April has partnered with the UN migration agency to repatriate close to 2,000 Gambians from Libya, cutting short their perilous journey to reach Europe.
A majority of Gambian asylum seekers, at least 76 percent, have seen their claims denied even when Jammeh was in power. They were considered economic migrants despite the human rights situation back then. Barrow’s coming to power and the opening of democratic space, means many of those waiting to have their asylums approve, could see their cases taken an unusual turn.