Hon. Lang Yabou, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
By Ramatoulie Jawo
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hon. Lang Yabou, appearing before the National Assembly Public Petition Committee, proffered an explanation as to why Gambians stranded in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2020 were not airlifted
Hon. Yabou testified before the Committee to shed light on the situation of the Gambian community in the United Arabic Emirates (UAE).
On the 8th of June 2020, Gambians in UAE sent a petition to the National Assembly Public Petition Committee to express concerns about their welfare. The stranded Gambians in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were seeking urgent assistance from the Gambia to return home.
The Petitioners appealed for the National Assembly’s immediate intervention as they were struggling to communicate or access the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Gambia, as well as the Gambian Embassy in Dubai.
Hon. Yabou was asked to inform the committee of what he knew about the stranded Gambians in the United Arab Emirates.
Hon. Yabou told the Committee that the government of the Gambia did not give a significant amount of money to the Embassy to airlift the stranded Gambians in UAE.
“Because airlifting Gambians from UAE, Spain, or all other countries, we will be talking about hundreds of millions of Dalasis, and Foreign Affairs was not given hundreds of millions of Dalasis to repatriate Gambians.”Gambians were evacuated through some private means. People hired aircraft, and some people paid for air tickets and joined those evacuation flights. But I don’t think the Ministry was given a substantial amount of money to evacuate Gambians.
The Chairman of the Committee Hon. Suwaibou Touray asked Hon. Yabou whether there was no welfare vote given to the Foreign Affairs to support the people during that particular time.
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In response Hon. Yabou said he needs to check that because he was not in the country.”But I can assure the Committee that even when welfare vote was given, it is not significant as the way they (Stranded Gambians) put it in the letter,” Hon. Yabou said.
Hon. Yabou further revealed that the Petitioners once approached the Ministry through some media Houses at the time, and they were given the feedback that the government does not have enough money to evacuate all Gambians outside Gambia.
Hon. Suwaibou Touray, Chairman of the Committee further asked Hon. Yabou whether he was aware of any steps taken by the Ministry or the Embassy at that particular point in time.
Hon. Yabou responded in the positive, saying the Embassy was constantly in touch with them (Stranded Gambians in UAE).
Hon. Yabou further told the Committee that the Petitioners saying that other countries were evacuating their citizens is not a fair comparison since those countries’ Ministries and Missions have the budget to do that, unlike the Gambia.
“Making comparisons can sometimes be very easy. But remember with all due respect these are people whom many do not understand how the government works. The Mission in UAE check their welfare vote, it is not up to Three Hundred Thousand dalasi (D300,000.00). So, if somebody is saying that the Senegalese are evacuating their citizens, or the Senegalese Embassy is giving their citizens. This must be probably the Senegalese Ambassador have excess money to do that,” he told the Committee.
Hon. Yabou stated that Gambian Missions around the world are giving welfare voters but most of the time ranging from a hundred thousand Dalasi (D100,000.00) to two hundred thousand Dalasi (D200, 000.00).”As Ambassador in Spain, we had over fifty thousand (50,000) Gambians under our Jurisdiction and our welfare voter have never gone past three hundred thousand Dalasi (D300, 000.00). So, when people make Comparisons with other countries, we should also put things in context. The context here is when we look at the budget, what do we have for Foreign Affairs? People will think it is huge, but it is not really. If you put it into context, he said.
Hon. Sulayman Saho, a Member of the Committee asked Hon. Yabou whether the Ministry repatriated any badge of Gambians from the UAE during that time.
Hon. Yabou confirmed to the Committee that his Ministry did not repatriate anyone from UAE at that particular time.
Hon. Saho further asked Hon. Yabou whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs collaborate with any other country to make sure they negotiate for Gambian citizens to be repatriated.
The Permanent Secretary responded that he would not say yes or No to that question because he is not privy to that.
Hon. Saho asked again whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received any letter from the Petitioners requesting airlifting.
Hon. Yabou told the Committee that he cannot answer the question.
“What I do know is that our Embassy in UAE at the time did very well talking to these Gambians. Some even to the extent of helping them with food through the UAE government. That is the one I know, and I can say that” he told the Committee.
Hon. Yabou added that at the time, the Stranded Gambians in UAE wanted the Ministry to repatriate them, flights were not operating around the entire world.