The European Union is currently in negotiation with Gambian authorities to return migrants from its 28-members states who are illegally staying there, EU ambassador Attila Lajos, told journalists on Wednesday.
An unspecified number of Gambians are staying in EU illegally and there has been a court order for them to be deported, Lajos added.
“One of the basic principles in EU countries is the respect for rule of law. Those migrants are in a positions whereby they exhaust all the legal ways of obtaining asylum to remain in the country, those are migrants to be returned,” said Lajos at a Breakfast meeting with journalists.
“I mean one thing is certain is that you can’t stay in EU illegally. No country will allow illegal migrants in their country.”
Gambia is one of the countries seriously affected by irregular migration of young people.
Currently, about 3, 484 young people who are stock in Libya and elsewhere in Africa have been returned by International Organisation for Migration to the country.
However, Gambia government’s position with the EU as they discuss the guidelines for returnees is the country’s lack of capacity to receive huge returnees from Europe at a time it is overwhelmed with returnees from Libya.
Lajos said they are also careful not to overwhelm the country with returnees. The policy document the two parties are discussing, a copy of which Kerr Fatou has seen, is proposing returning 50 migrants a month.
A source at the foreign ministry has confirmed to Kerr Fatou that an agreement was reached on the Good Practice Document but certain factors such as the reception of Gambia is being considered.
“Those who already exhausted all the legal possibility to stay in the EU, there is a court decision that they have got to leave the EU…,” said Lajos.
“We are in negotiation with the government on how to tackle this because we also want to make sure that there is no huge number of migrants returned to The Gambia when the Gambian circumstances is not ready to absorb and reintegrate them.”
With higher youth unemployment at 38% and poverty rate at 48%, Gambia is struggling with several others challenges such as unsustainable public debt at 130% of the GDP and a budget deficit of D1.3 billion.
The country has received several support in form of project from particularly China and EU in billions of dalasi worth of support since 2017.
The EU is currently funding the reintegration efforts of the Gambia’s over 3400 youths who returned from Libya and elsewhere in Africa.
Of that number, 771 people have benefited from the IOM reintegration efforts.
“We are going to launch a second package of efforts in terms of addressing the roots causes of migration by a theme: ‘build a future, make it in Gambia’. That would entail roughly €23 million from the Trust Fund to be implemented in different projects in the country…,” said Lajos.
EU has been Gambia’s donour partner and the Union constructed over 50% of the country’s paved roads, according to official records.