The administration of former President Yahya Jammeh refused to deal with the mass exodus of Gambians, allowing the number of Gambians journey across the Mediterranean to skyrocket by ignoring the issue, the EU’s Ambassador to the country Lattila Lajos said.
Lajos said mostly only the uneducated Gambians were embarking on the perilous journey, which has claimed the lives of several hundred Gambians and thousands of other nationals.
The Gambia has the third largest arrival in Europe per capita, a number that has shocked European authorities looking at the size of the small West African nation with a population of fewer than two million people.
“During Jammeh days, the notion has been that only the uneducated were migrating and they [Jammeh’s government] were refusing to deal with the issue at all. With the new government [the Barrow administration], we have a completely different approach,” Lajos told journalist Sanna Camara in an exclusive interview.
“The Gambia has got the highest illegal migrants arriving in Europe. And I think this is because the past government [Jammeh administration] did not deal with this social issue at all; rather they ignored the issue, and the problem just accumulated…”
Jammeh’s relationship with EU leaders has been estranged from deteriorating human rights issues under his autocratic regime. He refused to help Gambians stranded in Libya and Niger to return to The Gambia blaming them for leaving the country instead of opting to farm.
Many of Gambia’s migrants are considered to be economic immigrants. Their claims for asylum have been rejected. At least 75 percent of Gambian asylum seekers have seen their request for protection turned down.
Jammeh was defeated in the 2016 presidential election and since the new President Adama Barrow took power following a turbulent transition, at least a thousand Gambians have been repatriated, leading to a steady decline in the number of Gambian arrivals in Europe, mostly Italy.