The Gambia has not signed a deportation agreement with the European Union to bring back failed asylum seekers in their 28-member countries, foreign affairs minister Ousainou Darboe told lawmakers last week.
European Union wanted to return an unspecified number of Gambians from their member countries and they have since been seeking the cooperation of authorities to accept their people.
The EU has sent a proposal to the Gambian authorities call the Good Practice Document, seen by The Torch, which if agreed by the Gambia will set the procedure as to how Gambians will be returned.
The joint framework call the “Draft EU-Gambia good practices for the efficient operation of the return procedure”, stated that the EU will be returning a maximum of 50 Gambians per month with a green light from the Gambia.
However, foreign affairs minister Darboe told lawmakers that they have rejected the proposal and are not accepting it until it includes their concerns. Darboe would not say what their concerns were but he clearly stated discussions are ongoing towards reaching an agreement.
Meanwhile, returning of Gambian migrants from Europe and America has taken over an hour of the minister’s time answering questions from lawmakers last week.
According to the International Organisation for Migration, Gambia has received 2,368 migrants from Libya since January 2017 and 2,928 from all countries from the same period.
The country which is already overwhelmed with returnees from Libya has had to deal with returnees from America and Europe. Lawmakers expressed concerns that this could jeopardize the stability of the country.
The member for Serrekunda East Halifa Sallah has urged the foreign minister to talk to the country’s partners and see how they could stop the deportation of Gambians for a while as it could affect the transition to democracy and disrupt peace.
“Gambia is caught unprepared because it is on a transition obviously. So what appeal has the country made to our international partners because people coming are not just coming from Libya, they are coming from the United States and Germany…,” Sallah said.
“What measure has the Gambia taken so far to get the cooperation of our partners that this is not the time to deport Gambians to come to our country. That cooperation should be effected so that we get prepared for those who are coming.”
According to Darboe, The Gambia has been given a position paper but have made it clear that the government is not accepting it until it addresses concerns brought forward. He confirmed that there are discussions between the government of The Gambia and principally the European Union.
“There is the Good Practice document that has been forwarded to the Gambia government to deal with the issue of returning citizens and we have looked at the document and we believe that there are areas that ought to be looked at properly, including our capacity to receive the returnees,” said Darboe.
“We are working on that best practice document and our concerns are raised… We have made our own suggestions as to what should be done.”
Media reports indicated that the EU is also planning to now sanction countries that are refusing to take their citizens. America did a similar thing until it got some attention from African countries.
The EU good practice document is being negotiated with several African countries that have their nationals in Europe without papers. The Gambia has one of the highest number of illegal migrants in Europe per capita.
(Reporting and Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Sourcing from The Torch; Editing by Sam Phatey)