By Tabora Bojang
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Mamadou Tangara, will seek the National Assembly’s approval to consider and ratify the good practice agreement between the government and the European Union for the “efficient operation of the identification and return procedures of the persons without authority to stay” in Europe.
According to the approved agenda of the Third Ordinary Session of the National Assembly starting in the 2023 Legislative year Monday, the minister will appear before lawmakers on Tuesday 5 September.
Dr Tangara will also seek Assembly’s nod to consider and ratify the “operational conclusion on return modalities in the context of the implementation of the good practices on return between The Gambia and the EU.”
It is the first time the National Assembly plenary will look into migration agreements the government signed with the EU.
The EU Ambassador to The Gambia Corrado Pampaloni recently told The Standard that the Gambia government is now cooperating to take back Gambian citizens staying ‘illegally’ in Europe.
Since 2017, the government has consistently denied signing any agreement with the EU or its member states to deport Gambians.
However, former Interior minister Yankuba Sonko told lawmakers in February 2022 that the government had signed a “Good Practice Document” with the European Union in 2017 to repatriate Gambians who failed in their asylum applications. This was the first time a senior government official publicly admitted to such a deal.
The Good Practice Document, former minister Sonko added, provides among other things that the EU should ensure coordination of return operations from its member states to avoid exceeding receiving capability, support the government to establish strategic communication on migration management and implement certain projects in The Gambia to support reintegration.
He said although the EU has made tremendous efforts to fulfil the agreement, there are challenges which include exceeding the deportation numbers and also lack of provision of documentation establishing that the deportees have exhausted all legal means. He said this necessitated the imposition of a moratorium on deportations.
The former Minister also explained that after signing the agreement, the EU started deporting Gambians in small numbers without any issues but the moment they started deporting in large numbers there was public outcry. “That was the time we advised the technical team to look at the agreement and come up with an operational conclusion on it and in the operational conclusion some areas were identified and this include the potential vulnerability and medical needs of the returnees, and whether the person they are deporting has any criminal record for safety purposes,” he told members of the standing committee on foreign affairs at the time.
Meanwhile, Minister Tangara will also table a motion for NAMs to consider and ratify the agreement between the government and the Swiss Federal Council on cooperation in migration matters signed in 2021.
It could be recalled that the government issued a statement in January 2021 stating that it had signed a cooperation agreement on migration matters with Switzerland to curb irregular migration and ensure “effective protection of the rights of Gambian citizens” who are migrants in Switzerland.
But the Swiss government in a prior statement released on 13 January 2021 announced an ‘operational’ cooperation with The Gambia which among others covers issues relating to the practical organisation of returnees, such as identification and the issuing of replacement documents, saying a similar migration deal was also concluded with eight other African countries.