By Sarjo Barrow
As I sat in Detroit Metropolitan Airport patiently waiting for my connection to Madison, I decided to catch up on Gambian news. Of course, I started with my two sisters’ network—the F’s. Then I moved onto WOG to appease my sense of humor. There, I was thrilled to see the success of Gambian women in academia. So, as usual, I moved onto the late show with Colbert and the Daily Show with Trevor.
The moment I finished watching Colbert, Paradise TV show came up. I started to watch it too. The moment Mr. Drammeh said that Dr. Ceesay would join us later, my eyes were glued to the screen because I love his candid view on national issues. I must admit, the show was very productive, and the topic was quite interesting. Not to mention, Mr. Suso’s Mandinka is something to be admired.
The show was centered on the issues surrounding the mass exodus of our youthful population to Europe and the Americas. The panel identified several factors that forced our youths to embark on this perilous “back-way” journey. I couldn’t agree more with their many observation. Specifically, (1) our government’s failure to create a conducive environment that would encourage and motivate her youthful population to stay home, and (2) the ridicule the youthful population faced from family and the community for not volunteering their lives through the “back-way.”
However, I have to register my disagreement with Dr. Ceesay regarding the role of government on the issue of deportation because instead of just stating his opinion on a national issue, he encroached just enough by providing a piece of misleading legal information to the public. Although a sensitive topic, I think it is imperative that we Gambians discuss this issue openly and candidly. My disagreement with Dr. Ceesay is about his statement that “the Gambia government should not only refuse to accept her citizen, but should dictate to other countries when, where, and how Gambians should be deported back to the Gambia.” To defend his position, Dr. Ceesay stated that accepting deportees would pose a security threat to the Gambia. He further opined that this is why Ghana refused to accept her citizens from the USA and Germany—due to a national security threat.
Now, I agree with Dr. Ceesay that no citizen of the Gambia is deported to the Gambia without the consent of the government. That’s no brainer—duh. Also, I agree with him that alienating 65% of the population can pose a security threat in any nation. However, for Dr. Ceesay or anyone in his standing to argue or even suggest that the Gambia government should refuse to accept her citizen from other countries is at best, a borderline security threat, and at the very least, an irresponsible statement.
The USA is a sovereign country. Just like the Gambia and all the European countries. The Gambia cannot dictate how other countries enforce their immigration laws. Dr. Ceesay contends that because the Gambia came out of a dictatorship, followed by a fragile transition period, the government should abdicate her international obligations and refused to accept any returnee. This argument is not only untenable but unrealistic even under the principle of comity.
Looking at the many comments about Dr. Ceesay’s position, it is apparent that many of our brothers and sisters actually believed that the government could legally halt deportation. The Gambia government has no such power, legally, to stop the deportation of her citizen. In fact, if they do, they would be exposing themselves to a lot of legal action by the citizens. Contrary to Dr. Ceesay’s claim, Ghana did not refuse to accept her citizenship because they pose a security threat. Rather, it was the allegation that the last batch of Ghanaians that were deported are treated indifferently. The Ghana government wants to investigate this allegation before endangering other would-be deportees. Otherwise, Ghana accepts more deportees that you can fathom. I know this because I work with many Ghanaians. Unlike Ghana, majority of the Gambian returnees are flown commercial.
Certainly, sovereign nations reserve the rights to restrict or remove any alien from their jurisdiction. But more importantly, the sovereign nations also owe duties and responsibilities to their citizens especially under Article 5 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. What this means is for the Gambia government to make sure that any Gambian that is deported was afforded the due process of law—something the DC Ambassador & his team does. Simply put, the government should only issue travel documents if the USA satisfies that the removal order is legal and administratively final under US laws. Furthermore, ensure that her citizens are treated with the utmost respect until they arrived in the Gambia. Finally, the government should provide exit counseling and other services for the deportees.
Also, Dr. Ceesay suggests that any Gambian that is returned/deported to the Gambia is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. This statement is offensive to the many law-abiding returnees I work and interact with in the Gambia. Deportation is harsh and has severe, irreparable consequences for some families. Nevertheless, it is not a license to violate the laws of the Gambia. Now, is it possible that deporting thousands at the same time may cause a security concern? Absolutely yes. But so is having thousands of Gambians visiting the Gambia from November to January. Our law enforcement is/should be aware of this. For god sake, that is their job, and they can handle it. But, no threat, I mean no amount of threat should make us surrender our democracy. The Gambia asked for democracy. This is what democracy entails. Sometimes, in democracy, doing the right thing will hurt us to achieve the greater good.
I am a licensed attorney in the USA. My practice, presently, is almost exclusively limited to Immigration & Nationality law. I am privileged to have work with many families across the Gambia. My exposure in this field humbled me and makes me very passionate about immigration issues. Therefore, I can assure you that what Dr. Ceesay said is not feasible and is unrealistic from a legal point of view. Besides, Dr. Ceesay lived abroad at some point. I am willing to bet that he and many likeminded people do not roll the dice and say we will not regularize our status. Rather, we will wait for Jammeh to refuse our deportation. After all, Jammeh was the last original gangster standing. He’s a whole different ball game.
A few months ago, President Trump issued a proclamation to deny asylum to migrants coming through our Southern border. In his defense, it was necessary to protect Americans from terrorist and maintain internal security. At first blush, it seems fair, and many Americans would agree. However, the law sees it differently. The USA is a party to the 1967 Protocol, and our Congress has guaranteed the rights of refugees under our laws. This is why lawyers are able to stop President Trump and help desperate refugees.
My recommendation is:
- I think Paradise TV should continue this conversation because it is of national importance.
- The Gambia government should create programs and training that would give incentives to our youths. This is a Gambian government problem, and they should be responsible for fixing it. We can’t blame other countries for our problem.
- The government should come and openly address the issue surrounding Gambian deportees. The hide and seek will not cut it. Tell the citizen that it is rather unfortunate, but many of our brothers and sisters will be deported because it is the law. Also, create centers to debrief returnees to help their resocialization into the community
- Family members should change their attitude towards returnees. After all, the panel suggested that the ridicule from family and the community at large is what pushed many to take this dangerous trek.
- It is perfectly okay for the Gambia government to ask or even negotiate with their contemporaries regarding the manner of deportation—the Embassy in DC does it often. But, it has no authority to dictate the how, when , or where of deportation absent any wrongdoing by the sending nation.
- Last but not the least, citizens can ask their NAMs to subpoena government officials to shed light on the deportation issue if they refused to volunteer the information. Ask them what plans they have for the returnees including but not limited to summoning law enforcement leaders about the state of security with the influx of returnees.
- The Justice Department can help us combat antitrust in the Gambia. This will help improve the economy of the country to deter young adults from fleeing the Gambia. Launch an investigation into the apparent price fixing that is killing economic growth in the country.