Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis arrives this Saturday in The Gambia. He is expected to meet his Gambian counterpart and diplomats in Banjul to outline the implementation of the policies Switzerland and the Gambia agreed upon in mid Janury, this year.
In January, Switzerland and the Gambia reached an agreement that heightened enforcement of immigration violations rules on Gambians in Switzerland. Officially, it was said that the Switzerland-Gambia agreement “Covers issues relating to the practical organisation of returnees, such as identification and the issuing of replacement documents“.
One among many aspects of this agreement is that Gambian asylum seekers and others Gambian migrants in trouble with the Swiss laws must attend hearings at one of the consulates of The Gambia in Switzerland to be confirmed their Gambian identity and nationality. This gives a leverage to The Swiss authorities over these Gambians with duly issued Gambian documents, that can automatically be deported to Banjul should they stay in Switzerland becomes undesired.
The swiss government then said in a press release that “Many Gambian citizens are leaving their country for other countries in the region, Europe or the United States. Gambian nationals account for a significant proportion of migrants crossing the Mediterranean each year to reach the Italian or Spanish coasts“.
Heavily leaning on the influence of the People’s Party, a conservative national political party, the Swiss government has intensified pressure and sustained demands for migration restrictions on sub saharan countries, including The Gambia. As part of that pressure, Switzerland has obtained that The Gambia signed an agreement the Swiss Federal Council approved on 7th October 2020 on migration that basically compel Banjul to cooperate with Bern on deportations of Gambians living in the Swiss soil deemed undesirable in Switzerland.
In return, Switzerland has committed, in the medium-term, to increase its foreign economic assistance to The Gambia and the sub-Saharan countries in the hopes of promoting profitable trade relations in the region, along the lines of its significant partnership with Senegal. Switzerland therefore committed development programs for Gambian migrants.
The promise to The Gambia is however contingent to the conservative People’s Party spree to check major overhauls to Bern’s foreign expenditures in relation with curbing immigration flows from Africa to Switzerland. This means that for The Gambia to really benefit from the Swiss financial assistance in relation with the agreement, Banjul has to prove to be committed in reducing the flow of migrant departures from its shores.
The Swiss government is however of the view that “Operational cooperation with The Gambia over returning citizens generally works well“. This was said by Swiss officials in January, when Dr Isatou Touray the Vice president was in Bern, leading a Gambian delegation to sign the agreement on migration.