By Mustapha Darboe
There are 1,500 Gambians illegally living in Germany, the country’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told journalists at a joint press conference with Gambian president Adama Barrow at Coco Ocean Hotel yesterday.
Steinmeier, who arrived in the country on Wednesday on an official visit, said there are another 30,000 Gambians legally resident in his country.
“According to the information I have, there are about 35,000 Gambians living in Germany and 1,500 of them are not entitled to stay there which is to say they should be deported,” Steinmeier said.
“We both [German and The Gambia] have an interest to making sure that migration is managed… It is in the interest of African governments to keep their people at home,” Steinmeier added.
However, the German president fell short of saying if they are working on plans to return these Gambians.
However, Julian Staiger, an activist working with refugees in Germany, most of whom are Gambians, told The Standard yesterday that it was being rumoureed in the European country that Steinmeier was in The Gambia to sign an agreement with Barrow to return Gambian migrants.
Staiger, who works for the Refugee Council of Baden-Wuerttemberg and engages in advocacy for migrants and helps them with information about asylum procedures, said 94 percent of Gambian migrants in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany have had their asylum claims turned down. He said the number exceeds 10,000 and most of them arrived in the last three years.
“Germany thinks everyone from Gambia that goes there is an economic migrant. For the German asylum system, for economic reasons, you don’t get asylum,” he told The Standard.
Migration is a hot topic in European countries and last week an international human rights group, Amnesty International, chided the EU for its “complicity in the torture of Africans in Libya”.
The right group said the EU has empowered the Libyan coast guards who are working with criminal gangs and people smugglers who are guilty of a range of abuses, with the knowledge of EU officials.
But speaking in The Gambia yesterday, President Steinmeier said: “We are aware that you have some challenges to tackle and we are here to tell you that Germany and the European Union are on your side as you take on these challenges…,” Steinmeier said.
“We are aware that energy is a priority area for your government and we want to expand our cooperation in this area.”
Steinmeier said they could also help Gambia in training its youth folk through the Gambia Technical Training Institute.
The Gambian president said migration is a global problem that requires a “global solution”, through meaningful cooperation between countries.
Meanwhile, the Gambian leader who himself temporarily stayed in both Germany and England, has appealed to Gambian youths to stay and work in the country.
Barrow said after his trip to Germany where he was deported in the ’80s, his view of Europe completely changed.
“I believe that before you can succeed, you must have confidence and believe that you can make it,” he said.
He said anything is possible in The Gambia with positive thinking.