The Gambia has formally blocked flights returning Gambian migrants deported from countries of the European Union. In justifying its stance, The Gambia argued a sensitive political issue in a pre-election period; hence the country cannot reintegrate deportees.
In effect, The Gambia’s refusal to accept Gambian deportees from Europe comes ahead of a very indecisive presidential election in December. In the European diplomatic missions in Banjul, many have interpreted The Gambia’s position as a government bid to boost electoral support ahead of the December poll.
Gambians have a long tradition of migration. An estimated 118,000 Gambians live abroad, according to the International Organisation for Migration, who send home remittances worth over 20 percent of the country’s GDP.
But recently, the European Union become exasperated with The Gambia’s stubbornness to E.U’s pressure and President Adama Barrow’s government dragging its feet on deportations.
European governments complain that The Gambia has never fully cooperated on deportations even though President Adama Barrow’s government signed a non-binding agreement on deportations of Gambians with the EU in 2018 but “never fully respected it.”
To punish The Gambia for its perceived lack of collaboration on the European Union’s policy of expulsion of migrants, the EU decided in mid-July to restrict the conditions for granting short-stay visas to at least six months to visa applicants with a Gambian nationality.
This week, The Gambia’s government said it would block all flights returning migrants from the EU, just as Germany was preparing to expel many Gambians.
Gambian foreign ministry spokesman Saikou Ceesay told AFP News that the government decreed the policy in June before the E.U threatened to restrict its visas to Gambians. Saikou Ceesay told AFP News that a large number of returning migrants would cause “social upheaval.”
“We are trying to consolidate the peace, stability, and democracy we have in this country,” he said.
As countries like Germany and Switzerland become increasingly angry with The Gambia, the European Council will examine a new set of measures to compel the Barrow administration to accept more Gambian deportees.