Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union situated in Luxembourg. Its mission is to provide high quality statistics for Europe.
By Mustapha K Darboe
Six thousand five hundred and sixty (6560) Gambian nationals living in the European Union without proper documentation have been asked to leave in 2017, according to data collected by the European Statistical Department. This figure represents over two fold increase from the amount of people ordered to leave in 2016 which was two thousand, six hundred and fifty (2650).
The Euro Stats data Kerr Fatou received following a request shows Germany and Spain has the highest number of the Gambian irregular migrants who are ordered to leave. According to the data, in 2017 Germany has 2, 740, Spain 2335, Italy 490, France 330 and Belgium 55, while the rest smaller numbers are shared among other EU states.
These figures represent a huge upsurge from 2016 with respect to number of Gambians ordered to leave in various EU countries. In 2016, only 260 Gambians were ordered to leave Germany, Spain 990, Italy 495, France 260 and Belgium 60.
According to the Euro Stats records, 2017 represents a decline in the number of Gambian migrants who sought asylum in EU for the first time. Whereas 12, 495 Gambians sought asylum in EU in 2017, exactly 15, 185 Gambians were first time applicants in EU in 2016. Italy leads in terms of numbers in both years receiving asylum applications from 8, 705 Gambians in 2017 and 8, 845 Gambians in 2016. In Germany the first time Gambian asylum applicants were 5, 655 in 2016 and 2, 620 in 2017.
With the rise of populist movements in EU lives of migrants are becoming increasingly difficult. As anti-migrant sentiments rises, so does rejection in asylum applications.
The Euro Stats data in the first to the third quota of 2018 shows increasing rejection of asylum applications by Gambian migrants in 2018. And according to the Euro Stats data, in the first quota of 2018 only 970 Gambians got positive feedback on their asylum applications out of 3, 570 in various EU countries. In the second quota of 2018, out of 2900 asylum applicants mainly in Germany, Spain, Italy and UK, only 865 got it.
While in the third quota of 2018, out of 2365 asylum applicants, only 600 got it.
Previous figures are not any better. In 2016, out of 10,105 first time applicants, only 3,010 got positive feedbacks. In 2017, of 13,920 first time applicants, only 3,165 got positive feedback.
Meanwhile, since the regime change that ushered democracy in Gambia, the EU has been negotiating with authorities to return those who are “illegally” staying in their member states. But with concerns from Gambian authorities that the country is not ready, the EU came up with a document call the “Good Practice Document”.
According to this document, since Gambia does not have a reception capacity, 50 migrants were going to be deported in a month. This was declined by Gambia, raising concerns that it does not have the capacity to receive migrants. In August 2018, the officer in charge of American Affairs at Gambia’s Foreign Ministry, Melville Roberts, told Kerr Fatou that the so-call “Good Practice Document” was still being discussed and Gambia has also raised its concerns.
Last week, this medium has placed an email request to the Foreign Ministry of the Gambia requesting to know if the document has finally been approved by both sides but there was no response. However, a German newspaper based in Stuttgart did published an information from German authorities in the region call Baden-Württemberg saying they will deport 15 Gambians a month.
That region in Germany currently has 2,500 Gambians awaiting deportation.
The newspaper reported that German Interior Minister Thomas Strobl in the region of Baden-Wuerttemberg was looking for airlines with security forces who will accompany the rejected asylum seekers to their home countries. United States is one of the earliest countries to contract private security agencies to return reject asylum applicants to their home country and German appears to be following that footstep.
“… We want to look around Baden-Wuerttemberg for suitable airlines in the open market, who can also provide security support in addition to the aircraft and the crew,” the interior minister was quoted as saying.
The newspaper said the proposed deportation of Gambians have failed before because of missing documents, unexplained identity of the asylum seekers – or because not enough transport capacity is available.
But the paper reported that such could change because Gambia has now agreed to send liaison officers to Germany, who are involved in identifying of asylum seekers.
According to the German authorities, 5400 Gambians are currently living in the southwest region of Baden-Wuerttemberg whose asylum processes are ongoing. The prospect for them to receive asylum or other protection status is there but it is considered low. The recognition rate is currently just over four percent.
However, the spokesperson of Gambia Immigration, Mamading Dibba, told Kerr Fatou last week that it is “news” to him that Gambian officials have travelled to German to identify migrants.