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EU says gov’t now cooperating with deportations

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By Tabora Bojang

Ambassador and head of delegation of the European Union to The Gambia Corrado Pampaloni has disclosed that the government is now cooperating to take back Gambian citizens staying ‘illegally’ in Europe.

Last year, the EU increased visa fee for Gambian nationals from €80 to €120 among other sanctions in response to government’s refusal to cooperate on the return of Gambian migrants.

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The visa fee increase came on top of other measures against Gambia in 2021 including the suspension of the shorter processing period, the suspension of issuing of multiple entry visas and the suspension of the optional visa fee waiver for holders of diplomatic and service passports.

Ambassador Pampaloni said since these measures have been decided, Gambia and EU have “re-established a very frank and very open platform” about returns.

Asked how many Gambians government has to accept before EU consider removing visa sanctions, he said: “I don’t have an exact figure but we are talking about few thousands. What EU want to see is a regular cooperation. Europe need people to work, pay taxes and contribute to its development but these people need to have legal status and be registered”.

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The EU boss stressed that Gambia is obliged under international law to take back its citizens who exhausted their legal remedies to remain in Europe and failure to do so would warrant certain consequences.

Pampaloni denied suggestions that Gambians are indiscriminately kicked out from Europe in large numbers disclosing that since 2020, only a little over 625 Gambians were forced to return. The former EU ambassador once accused Gambia of speaking with different voices.

Asked if the EU still retains this position against the government, the Ambassador replied: “There is an international law that rules upon this situation. Speaking with different voices would not be my reading. I think the government has now a very clear position on what is our relations in terms of migration. They are not happy to receive people from Europe and at the beginning they did not cooperate with the returns, they were indeed trying to slow down the process. Yes, there were many problems at the beginning such as Covid-19 and the presidential election and EU wanted to wait until the environment is peaceful and conducive. Now after 2022 we are negotiating with the Gambia. So from this negotiation there is a sort of operational procedure where a certain number of Gambians are asked to leave Europe because they don’t have a legal status”.

Asked when would the EU consider reducing the visa fee, the Ambassador replied: “I don’t know when it’s going to be reduced. It is an evaluation that member states are doing on a regular basis on the cooperation on the returns. So when this is satisfied the Council will be happy with returns and the measures will be lifted”.

Ambassador Pampaloni stated that the EU understands that government is in a very difficult position in trying to protect the rights of its people to remain in Europe and also respect international law.

“Why do you think we have 600 people deported from Europe in 3 years? We are also concerned about security. We all know somebody who is forced to leave Europe will not be happy but we have laws and we are all subject to this law. From the side of the EU we need to control the immigration and from the government side they need to control the returns. Because they are not happy to take back all these people but it’s always negotiation. It is negotiation between somebody unhappy to have illegal migrants and somebody unhappy to take back their own people. Europe want skilled labour. We don’t want people who will come and hide in the streets. Until this equilibrium will be established Europe will return nationals who are not deemed to stay in Europe,” the ambassador.

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