By Alagie Manneh
Migration advocate, Yahya Sonko, has lifted the lid on a supposed weekly deportation of Gambians from Germany.
He told The Standard yesterday that German authorities, in cahoots with their Gambian counterparts, have been resorting to weekly deportations of Gambian migrants in pairs, in place of the popular periodic mass deportations to avoid political pressure and or criticism that comes with it.
Close to a dozen Gambians, he alleged, are currently being held, awaiting deportation.
“The last mass deportations happened on November 11. But that doesn’t mean the deportations have stopped. Mass deportations always attract pressure from Gambians and the families of those deported. What the German government is doing now is that they are arresting and deporting Gambians on a weekly basis, mostly in pairs. I have been receiving calls every week from Gambians in detention centres, and I know of Gambians who are currently in Gambia because they were deported individually. This has been the norm since December to now. So, just because you have not been hearing of mass deportations doesn’t mean nothing has been ongoing. They have been deporting individually, or in pairs,” Mr Sonko said.
In the past, chartered flights were used for deportations, but Mr Sonko said that has changed now. “They are now deporting them in pairs on normal commercial flights. They often use either Turkish Airlines or Royal Air Maroc,” he said.
Mr Sonko, who is the chairman of the Network of Integration and Irregular Migration Data, said the new measures demonstrated how both the EU and Gambia government have failed in their migration policies. “The initial agreement is for the Gambia to cooperate with the EU on mass deportations of Gambian nationals. But it has become very difficult for The Gambia government to accept deportees en masse. So, they had to change the game and the approach because of the political ramifications. The government is now accepting deportees but only if they are not big in number at any given time. Why? Because they don’t want the citizens to be aware that deportations are still ongoing. Individual deportations or deportations in pairs continue to happen on a weekly basis,” he explained.
Mr Sonko said they have long called on Gambian authorities to return to the negotiation table with the EU, warning that the current situation could get worse.
“They cannot continue to accept our citizens like that because they don’t have the capacity to integrate them in The Gambia. But interestingly, they also can’t say no to the EU without risking sanctions. In that context, both the EU and The Gambia government have failed in policy. The government must act now because these people constitute a security threat with all the stress they are coming back with,” he said.