By Alagie Manneh
The German state of Baden-Württemberg has endorsed a reintegration programme for undocumented Gambian migrants who failed to self-actualise in the country, hoping that it would lead to greater voluntary returns.
It is believed that thousands of Gambian migrants are resident in Baden-Württemberg while it is not clear how many remain undocumented, the state hopes to encourage their voluntary return with the approval of a 100,000-euro investment in a pilot project targeting at least ten Gambian returnees.
The 12-month project is being rolled out by BBQ, an education and professional qualification centre, in collaboration with Germany-based Gambian migration activist and founder of the NGO Support for Humanity.
At the end of a familarisation trip to The Gambia last week, the international project manager of BBQ, Götz von Roell, in an interview with The Standard, said there are many undocumented Gambians in Germany who are not engaged in any venture, and that the pilot project is an alternative for them to actualise in their home countries.
“The project has targets to help Gambians who want to go back to The Gambia,” Mr Roell explained. “A lot of them want to come back to The Gambia but there are issues, so, we try to find solutions to the issues.”
According to Mr Roell, the entire process is voluntary. “We propose to bring them back if they wish to, and try to reintegrate them in Gambian society by placing them in an enterprise or company in which they can work and earn a living. While they work in these enterprises here in The Gambia, the state of Baden-Württemberg will pay for their salaries.”
Mr Roell added: “The families made a lot of effort for their children to go to Europe, so, it is now really difficult for the family to accept when they come back and don’t have anything. We try to engage them in some skills acquisition programme and after some weeks they receive certificates which they can present in The Gambia for a business life.
“Under the project, there are two types of returnees; the one that will be employed in a company and the other that will try to build up his or her own business.”
His counterpart, Yahya Sonko, said discussions have been held with the various relevant government ministries and other stakeholders to introduce the programme.
Although Mr Sonko praised the project for being auspicious, he said that it cannot be expected to provide “a 100 percent support” reintegration programme.
“That will be very difficult,” he emphasised. “What we try to do in this pilot project is to give extra support to what is already there for them [returnees], like for example the IOM support package. This project will not reduce or affect that in any way. If you contact us as a voluntary returnee, we will provide you with financial support as far as you are coming back to The Gambia. Like for example, if a returnee wants to work in a tourist industry, our pilot project can talk to any hotel manager or institution for that returnee to be given that service and we will be paying his monthly salary through that institution for one year.”
Under an MoU, he said, respective companies will after one year be obligated to employ the returnees.
Mr Sonko said that if the one-year pilot programme succeeds, more funds are likely to be made available by the state of Baden-Württemberg.
He called for greater government cooperation to battle the “bottlenecks in emergency passports acquisition for would-be returnees”.