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‘Gambia doesn’t deserve Britain visa sanctions’

‘Gambia doesn't deserve Britain visa sanctions'

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By Omar Bah

Hassoum Ceesay, a top Gambian historian and director of the National Center for Arts and Culture, has urged the UK government to revise its threat to impose visa sanctions against The Gambia, saying it is “highly unnecessary”. 

Last week, the UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, vowed to impose visa sanctions on The Gambia and some other countries for refusing to take back what she called ‘criminals and asylum seekers from the UK.

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According to her, the measures are being considered due to a lack of ‘cooperation’ on deportations by those countries who are ‘abusing our hospitality’.

The Home Secretary specifically pointed out The Gambia, warning that the country will be first for the stricter measures as they “ignored” calls for cooperation.

But reacting to the threats in a Standard exclusive yesterday, Hassoum Ceesay said: “It is not unnecessary for the UK to take such a step against The Gambia for the simple reason that for the past five years, a lot of efforts have gone into repairing our diplomatic ties including aid.

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“Her Majesty the Queen in 2018 received President Adama Barrow in audience with a delegation, something that had not happened since 1991 under the regime of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara and also the current British Prime Minister, as Foreign Secretary, paid a visit to The Gambia, all in that atmosphere of repairing the relations between the two countries.”

He said one of the first diplomatic achievements of the Barrow administration was to take the Gambia back to the Commonwealth which is a baby of Great Britain.

“I think that was a very good indication of diplomatic goodwill from the Gambia towards the Commonwealth for what it stands for, values and its leadership,” he said.

Further justifying his arguments, Ceesay said The Gambia gives undiluted and sincere support to Great Britain during the First and Second World War.

“I have here a long list of 126 Gambians who died at the Burma front in 1934 defending British Colonial interest against the Japanese during the Second World War. Four died in action, 13 died from their wounds, 26 went missing or captured by the Japanese and executed and 54 died in other active services fighting in the jungles. That is the high contribution in terms of human lives that Gambia contributed in the Second World War,” he said.

Ceesay said those were Gambians who were conscripted to fight on the side of Great Britain and all in all 2000 Gambians were conscripted to fight in that war.

In addition, Ceesay added, Gambians contributed money through a “Spitfire Fund” when Hitler attacked London in 1940.

“The British had run out of aircraft so Gambians contributed money which today is equivalent to D24 million and this was sent to Great Britain to help them in their war efforts against Hitler’s Germany. Some contributed goats, chickens and every type of contribution between 1940 to 1944. In fact, there was a special warship called HMS Gambia which was constructed out of these funds and it was named after our country. Our historical ties are so great that a visa palaver is not deserving of the relationship between the two countries,” he added.

Ceesay said The Gambia was the oldest British colony and in 1925, the Prince of Wales on “a Royal visit to Bathurst also called us the oldest and most loyal colony because British presence in The Gambia dates to the 1500s, when the Royal African Adventurer which later became the Royal African Company. It became the first British Company to trade anywhere in Africa and from the 1500s, up to today The Gambia and Britain have enjoyed trade relations, social relations, political relations and so on”.

“I advise the British government to revisit their threat and see The Gambia as an old ally that Gambians in the UK are very influential to the British public. They are in academia, public service contributing to the progress of that country and also contributing through remittances and scholarship to the development of our country. So Gambians being in the UK will be a win-win situation for the Gambia and the UK,” he concluded.

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