Gambian authorities continue to be silent on the so-call Good Practice Document being negotiated with EU on the return of migrants.
Mustapha K Darboe
Gambians migrants in Germany are running from their houses because of fear of being caught by the police and deported to the country, said Yahya Sonko, an activist living in Germany.
Sonko said the police are going after people in their houses, causing migrants to flee their homes.
“All Gambians who are in deportation threat, they do not sleep in their houses… They go to their friends, bus stops and even train stations and it is snowing here,” said Sonko.
“I have received ten calls from Gambians informing me that police have come to their houses but they did not meet them there.”
Sonko left the country in 2016 but he is not in a deportation threat. He founded the establishment of an organization call Gambia Refugee Association which brought together Gambian migrants in Germany to collectively fight for issues affecting them.
On January 29, German authorities have deported 15 Gambians, barely two months after some couple of failed asylum seekers were also deported.
Despairs and anger
The migrants, desperate of their circumstances, have written to all political parties and key decision makers in The Gambia to share with them their concerns.
In a letter to President Adama Barrow through his spokesperson Amie Bojang, the migrants said they were “concerned about the ongoing trend of deportation”.
“… Some of the Gambians deported last month were not given the chance to appeal against their rejected asylum cases but instead, were sent back home. This is indeed a great cause for concern for us and we are appealing to Your Excellency to engage the Europeans especially Germany and Italy regarding our plight and welfare,” said the migrants in a letter sent to Barrow in the first week of January.
“Despite the international guidelines set aside on the issue of deportation, we are again appealing to Your Excellency to engage the Europeans to re-prioritize deportation… In our view, deportation can be done but should be re-prioritize only for those who commit serious offences in a foreign land and are sent to jail.”
The migrants said they are “hardworking” people who “want to be given the chance to work and get good integration in Europe”.
Sonko said if the engagement with Gambian authorities fails to yield any positive result, they are working on organising a massive demonstration in Gambia.
The migrants are planning to hold a meeting next week where they will discuss issues affecting them and the way forward.
Silence over signing of deportation pact
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”. The document, agreed upon by Gambian authorities and EU according to our sources, is buried in total secrecy.
According to the Good Practice Document seen by Kerr Fatou, 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.
In November, 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.
This suggest Gambian authorities and the EU have agreed to reduce the 50 people per month to 15, the same amount of undocumented migrants who were returned to Gambia on Tuesday, January 29.
The region of Baden-Württemberg in Germany currently has 2,500 Gambians awaiting deportation, according to official sources.
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 countries 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 15 Gambians who were returned yesterday January 29 were brought by Germania amidst heavy police escort.
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.
Though Gambian officials have claimed they have not send people to Germany to identify migrants, German authorities have confirmed they were there, according to German media.
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.