The total number of Gambians living outside of the country reached 140,000 in 2017, according to a new dataset on Gambian migration compiled by Cherno Omar Kebbeh, a Gambian economist based in Washington DC.
According to the new dataset, irregular (backway) migration to Europe has immensely contributed to the total number of Gambians living outside of The Gambia.
The Brikama-born Kebbeh told The Standard yesterday: “Between 2008 and middle of 2017, over 60,000 young Gambians crossed into Europe as first time asylum seekers with the majority arriving in Italy.
Because of this, Italy has for the first time surpassed Spain as the top destination country for Gambian migrants. This dataset also revealed that the United States is becoming an important destination for Gambian migrants with the number of Gambians reaching 21,000. Spain, which has been the top destination for Gambian migrants, is now the third destination country.”
He added: “For the first time in Gambian migration history, Italy in 2017 became the top destination for Gambian migrants. Between 2008 and middle part of 2017, over 34,000 young Gambians arrived on the shores of Italy seeking asylum as first time asylum seekers.
While some of these young Gambians moved to other parts of Europe, majority stayed in Italy because of the Dublin Regulation, which is meant to prevent an asylum applicant from submitting applications in multiple Member States – in addition to reducing the number of ‘orbiting’ asylum seekers, who are shuttled from member states to member states. The country in which the asylum seeker first applies for asylum is responsible for either accepting or rejecting the claim, and the seeker may not
of Gambian asylum seekers are male and with over 80 percent between the ages of 18 years to 34 years. While ‘backway’ migration is dominated by young Gambian men, the number of young Gambian female asylum seekers continues to increase – reaching almost 300 in 2016. As a share of population, the Gambia has the highest rate of asylum seekers in Italy among African countries.”
Gambians in the United States
Mr Kebbeh, a graduate of Duke University, said the US continues to be an important destination for Gambian migrants. According to this new dataset, close to 21,000 Gambians are living in the United States in 2017. While Gambians are spread out throughout the United States, states with high concentration of Gambians include New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, and Washington.
Most Gambians in the United States are documented with a good share obtaining US citizenship or permanent residency (Green Card).
“Between 2005 and 2015, more than 10,000 Gambians obtained permanent resident status while a little over 5,000 obtained US citizenship. The US was also an important destination for Gambians seeking asylum. Between 2004 and 2015, a little more than 1,000 Gambians were granted asylum. In the same period, more than 1,000 Gambians were apprehended and another 200 deported.
“Gambian migrants in the United States are among the most educated, with 19 percent holding a bachelor’s degree relative to 17 percent for all foreign-born. Almost 6 percent of Gambian migrants hold a graduate degree,” he stated.
Read the full write-up on the Monday edition of The Standard.