By Alagie Manneh
Seeking to improve The Gambia’s cooperation on the return and reintegration of its nationals, the European Union Council Thursday announced the increment of Schengen visa fees for Gambian citizens by 50 percent.
The new measure will see a spike from €80 to €120 in Schengen visa fee for Gambian passport holders.
In a press release, the EU said that the measure has been taken as “leverage in order to push The Gambia to cooperate” in the return and readmission of its nationals currently illegally staying in one of the EU Member States.
“The decision is a response to the lack of substantial and sustained improvement in cooperation on readmission with The Gambia,” the Council said in a statement. “In particular, cooperation on identification and return remains challenging, the timeframe set by the EU-Gambia readmission arrangement has not been adhered to, and a unilateral moratorium on returns by charter flights remained in place until March 2022.”
In November, the EU Commission adopted the proposals to tighten visa restrictions for citizens of The Gambia and Senegal, citing the two countries’ failure to cooperate with them in readmission.
These measures are a result of The Gambia’s refusal to cooperate with the EU after both the European Council and the Council have continuously highlighted the need to mark real progress on the return and readmission of Gambians to their home country, the statement added.
The speaker at the Refugee Council of Baden-Württemberg for Gambia, and migration advocate Yahya Sonko, said the new EU measures are unfair to The Gambia.
“The Gambia has been cooperating. Look at the number of Gambians deported since the coming of the Barrow regime. It will be unfair for the EU to compare The Gambia with other African countries, and want them to accept deportees every month based on the so-called Good Practices document.”
The Gambia government has never publicly acknowledged the signing of the EU Good Practices document which calls for amongst others monthly acceptance of deportees, but Mr Sonko said it is the document EU is banking on to justify returns.
“The EU is relying on that agreement that they have with The Gambia government. This is why it’s difficult for The Gambia government to continually say no to the EU,” the migration activist explained.
The Gambia government, he added, “must be bold enough” to admit to its mistake of signing any such agreement, and demand to renegotiate.
“They should call the EU to the negotiating table and tell them that we as a country simply don’t have the capacity to handle these returns,” he stated.