The Government of The Gambia and the European Union (EU) have jointly identified a system of good practices for the efficient operation of return procedures and have agreed to communicate them to the competent authorities. The system of good practices does not intend to create legal rights and obligations under international law. They come as a support to the EU member states bilateral relations with The Gambia and cannot be interpreted as superseding the existing or preventing the conclusion of future bilateral agreements between the EU Member States and The Gambia
1) The EU will ensure coordination of return operations from EU member states to avoid exceeding Gambia’s reception within a capacity within a given period
2) EU member states will endeavor, in the framework of relevant national laws, to provide specific information related to dangerous persons to be returned in line with data protection requirements. For each returnee, a standard declaration will be made ensuring that a return order/decision has been issued in accordance with the domestic law of the relevant EU Member State.
3) Special measurements will ensure that vulnerable groups receive adequate attention, assistance and care throughout the whole process. Unaccompanied minors are not to be returned without successful tracing of family members or without adequate reception and caretaking arrangements having been put in place.
4) When the person subject to the return decision has a valid passport, no formalities are necessary prior to the return subject to paragraph 1 and 10.
5) When the person subject to the return decision has an expired passport, a valid or expired identity card, or an expired consular laissez-passer, or when the person’s data are retrieved in the Visa Information System (VIS), the diplomatic/ consular representation of The Gambia will issue a consular laissez-passer as soon as possible upon representation of the documentary evidence concerned, and in any event within 7 working days thereof.
6) When the person subject to the return decision has none of the documents referred to in paragraph 5
a. On the request, the diplomatic/consular representation of The Gambia will arrange an interview to verify the person’s nationality within 7 working days and, if their nationality is confirmed will issue a travel document within 3 working days of the date of the interview. Video conference can be used if needed.
b. Alternatively, nationality can be verified by the diplomatic/consular representation of The Gambia on presentation of one or more of the following copies of passports or identity cards or photocopies of the official documents which specify nationality. If nationality can be established, the diplomatic mission/consular office will ensure an emergency travel documents within 3 working days. If nationality cannot be established on the basis of these documents, the diplomatic/consular representation will provide a written explanation and if necessary, arrange an interview, as in paragraph 6 (a).
c. Alternatively, nationality can also be checked by consulting biometric databases when available. Upon request of an EU Member State, and on the basis of the fingerprints of the person to be identified, the responsible authority of The Gambia will verify the fingerprints in its databases, and will inform of the result of investigations within 7 working days from the date of the request. If nationality is confirmed, the diplomatic mission/consular office issues an emergency travel document within 5 working days from identification. If nationality cannot be established, the diplomatic/consular representation will provide a written explanation and, if necessary, arrange an interview, as in paragraph 6(a).
7) Interviews can also be undertaken in the form of identification missions to the EU Member State(s), in case the implementation of the process identified in paragraph 6 fails to meet the expected results or in case of significant migratory pressure or due to lack of diplomatic representation of The Gambia in the EU Member State(s) concerned. Such missions can take the form of short-term visits to one or more EU Member States. The results of the interviews are recorded in a report signed by the Members of the identification mission. In case of positive identification, the relevant Gambian Delegation or Diplomatic Representation will issue an emergency travel document within 14 calendar days after the interviews; if there is no diplomatic representation it can be up to 14 working days. The costs of such identification missions are borne by the requesting EU Member State.
8) The emergency travel document will be issued by the diplomatic/consular representation of The Gambia, and will be valid for six months and will be renewed within 14 working days if necessary.
9) Transport, the costs of which are borne by the requesting EU Member State, may consist of scheduled or non-scheduled flights. The organizational aspects of non-scheduled flights operated by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) are to be agreed upon in advance between The Gambia and the EU.
10) If, within 15 working days after repatriation, it is established that the person who is the subject of the return is not a Gambian national, the EU Member State will organize and bear the upkeep and transport cost of transferring the person to their country of origin or, if failing that, to their point of departure.
11) The EU will provide support to the Gambian authorities for reception and reintegration of returnees, and developing communities of origin through relevant funding instruments, for example the EU Trust Fund project implemented by IOM “Strengthening the management and governance of migration and the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants in the Gambia” launched early June 2017.
12) The EU and The Gambia intend to meet regularly (every six months) in a joint working group to assess their cooperation on migration issues and to discuss possible improvements in the implementation of the good practices. To further facilitate this cooperation, contact points will be established within two weeks after agreement has been reached on the system of good practices.
Operational conclusion on return modalities in the context of the implementation of the Good Practices on return between the EU and The Gambia
Banjul, 2-3 May 2019
The operational conclusions reflect the outcome of the discussion in view of ensuring a proper implementation of the Good Practices on return between the Gambia and the EU and in view of resuming return via flights to The Gambia.
The EU welcomes the confirmation of the agreement by The Gambia to work with ERRIN as part of the government2Government project. The EU and the Member states will follow up swiftly in order to address pending technical issues, finalize contractual steps and ensure the implementation of the action by ERRIN.
1. Communication strategy (article 12 of the Good Practices)
The EU will support The Gambia administration in establishing strategic communication on migration management. It will consider in particular the intervention of a political communication strategist (consultancy) and equipping The Gambian administration with technical skills to effectively communicate with its citizens, to improve inter-agency communication and information-sharing with its bilateral partners, as well as to monitor developments in the (social) media and/or to bring forward messages proactively.
2. Reintegration assistance in the Gambia (article 11 of the Good Practices)
The EU is implementing various projects an there are other underway in The Gambia, which are intended to create job opportunities for Gambian nationals, as well as provide reintegration assistance to returnees, including forced returnees.
The commission will sensitize the EU Member States as to the information that needs to be communicated to the Government of The Gambia on the various return and reintegration schemes available in Member States.
The commission will provide official Eurostat statistics related to residence permits granted to, asylum applications made by, apprehension of, and return decisions issued to irregular migrants from The Gambia in EU.
In order to promote voluntary return of irregularly-staying Gambian nationals, the EU will explore possibilities for the Government of The Gambia to contribute to further enhance outreach process and return counselling in EU Member States.
3. Handover procedures/disembarkation at airport (article 9 of the Good Practices)
The EU will explore with its Member States and international partners, how to further improve the Gambia authorities, preparedness and capacities for managing the disembarkation process of returnees at the airport, including the handing over of returnees with aggressive behavior.
In particular, Frontex/ EBCGA and member states stand ready to organize workshop to establish clear handover procedures with the Gambia Immigration Department and with Gambia Police officers involved in the reception of return flights. Such workshop could take place in Banjul with relevant authorities at least two weeks ahead of the next return operation to take place by non-scheduled flight.
4. Pertinent information on returns (articles 2 and 9 of the Good Practices)
In accordance with EU and national laws, relevant information pertaining to the return process, including the fact that Gambian national are being returned to the Gambia as a result of a deportation order by the relevant authorities of EU Member States, should be shared with Gambian authorities. Such information also includes the potential vulnerability and medical needs of returnees, and if a risk for a potential aggressiveness of a given person is identified. The Gambian authorities will seek to establish points of contact to that effect.
Where necessary, information on possible criminal background and risks for public security of an individual should be exchanged through appropriate police channels, bilaterally between individual Member States and the relevant Gambian authorities.
The removal of Gambian nationals subject to return and who are imprisoned should be prioritized by Member States, following due process and issuance of deportation order.
The Gambian missions in EU member states should first screen or vet the returnees before they are return to the Gambia.
5. Timely information about return flights (article 9 of Good Practices)
Preliminary information about date of the planned non-scheduled flight and the maximum number of returnees will be shared 4 weeks ahead of return operation, which would coincide with the request for landing permit. The Gambian authorities will provide the landing permit 1 week before the date of the arrival. An indicative list of returnees who are detained will be provided, at latest, 5 days before the non-scheduled flight. A final list of returnees will be provided, at the latest, once the boarding of the non-scheduled flight is completed.
6. Frequency of non-scheduled flights and number of returnees on board (article 1 of the Good Practices)
EU Member State and Frontex/ EBCGA will ensure coordination of the non-scheduled flights so that the frequency does not exceed two (2) non-scheduled flights with maximum of 25 returnees per flight every fortnight or 35 returnees per flight per month.