By Omar Bah
At least 25 undocumented Gambian migrants from different European countries are set to be deported from Germany later this month.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs flight landing request letter addressed to the permanent secretary ministry of defence and copied to the Secretary General dated 22 June, seen by The Standard reads: “we write to request for overflight and landing clearance for a non-scheduled charter flight set to repatriate up to 25 Gambian nationals from different EU-Member States.”
According to the letter, the flight is expected to arrive at the Banjul International Airport on 27th July 2022.
When contacted for comments on this new development, Musa Camara, the director of diaspora affairs at the foreign affairs ministry, confirmed the authenticity of the letter. However, he lamented that the government should “not be blamed for accepting its citizens who have exhausted all legal remedies to stay in other countries”.
“Every country in the world deports – there is no country that doesn’t deport even in The Gambia every month we deport. If there are people in the Gambia whose stay is not legal, we deport them and again there are international laws that every country has obligation to in terms of readmission of their citizens,” he said.
Mr Camara said the government has no hand in the deportation of Gambians but has a responsibility to readmit it citizens.
“As a country where our citizens are affected, we ensure due process is followed to ensure the person’s rights are adhered to by the deporting country. We find out whether the person has a family there or whether he/she has exhausted all legal rights to stay there or not,” he said.
Camara argued that deportation should “not be seen as a crime and people should not use it to harass the government”.
“If our citizens staying in any country are illegal, we have no right to say no you cannot deport them to the Gambia. That in fact contravenes international law. No government will sell out its citizens as people will think that the EU gives money to the Gambia to accept deportation of our citizens,” he said.
He said the Gambia signed a migration agreement with the EU like other countries that are not EU countries.
“That is normal internationally, to promote the safety of our citizens. So, deportation is normal if it is in line with the law of that particular country and every country also has the responsibility of readmission of her citizens if they have exhausted all their remedies in terms of legalising their stay in a particular country,” he added.
According to the German Federal Government, around 11,000 migrants were deported by air in the first half of 2018 alone, including 211 Gambians.
In 2019, refugee support groups in Germany raised alarm that at least 2,400 Gambian refugees in the country were slated for deportation.
In the same year, the Barrow government imposed a moratorium on the repatriation of Gambian migrants from Germany and other EU countries “pending further negotiations with EU partners while better and more humane modalities are worked out” following public outcry and mass demonstrations.