Yahya Sonko, Germany-based migration activist
By Buba Gagigo
Yahya Sonko, a migration activist residing in Germany, has leveled serious allegations against the Gambian government, asserting that they are making minimal to no efforts to address the issue of irregular migration.
Sonko voiced his concerns, stating, “The Gambia Government is doing very little or no effort about it. As usual, they will wait till a tragedy happens before they react. Gambia is a very small country, and we all know that boat trips are organized in our communities. Where are the SIS, immigration department, and navy? Why can’t they track the smugglers and organizers of these boat trips? In the Gambia, we saw the International Organization for Migrants (IOM) organizing a series of capacity-building training and workshops for the Immigration Department with regards to irregular migration,”
He emphasized that the knowledge acquired from these training sessions should be put to practical use in addressing the irregular migration issue in The Gambia.
Sonko urged the Gambian Interior Minister to convene an emergency meeting to hold security officials accountable, believing that with more efficient efforts, a substantial number of these boats could be intercepted. He recommended that the President initiate a national dialogue to engage in a candid discussion about migration. He pointed out that these trips are organized in villages and within communities and suggested involving village Alkalos, Village Development Committee (VDC) leaders, Chiefs, and Governors, as they often have information that could assist law enforcement in identifying boat trip organizers.
Sonko expressed particular concern about the increasing involvement of women and minors in these perilous sea journeys to Spain, noting that some pregnant women have also undertaken the hazardous voyage.
According to the activist, the current migration crisis in the Canary Islands is approaching levels not seen since the largest influx of immigrant boats in 2006. In 2023, over 30,000 survivors have arrived on their shores, predominantly from West Africa, with a noticeable increase in the number of women and teenagers embarking on these crossings.
Sonko highlighted official data from the Spanish Ministry of Interior, revealing that as of October 15th, a staggering 30,400 migrants have reached the Canary Islands in 2023, with a significant proportion originating from neighboring countries, The Gambia and Senegal. He also reported that between January and October of the current year, 18 different boats, carrying a total of 2,345 individuals, arrived in various cities in Spain from The Gambia.