In late August 2021, the Gambian government said that any migrants wanting to return home to The Gambia would not be allowed to enter. The Banjul administration said it would not allow any flights carrying Gambian migrants coming from the EU.
This announcement came as Germany decided to expel several Gambian migrants in early September. And the DW media reports that “more than 2,000 Gambian migrants who have exhausted their asylum appeals in Germany are awaiting repatriation.” The country is not accepting its citizens back to the Gambia due to security concerns and difficulties in reintegration. Other issues cited related to the pandemic and the possibility that Gambian migrants could contribute to a rise in COVID-19 cases, thereby putting additional strain on public health facilities in the country.
This move could also be due to the upcoming election in the Gambia that is set for December 2021, which could be a way to boost electoral support in the polls. The forthcoming election will be the first one after oppressive dictator Yahya Jammeh ruled for nearly 22 years till he lost an election in 2017 to Adama Barrow.
The Gambian foreign ministry spokesman, Saikou Ceesay, explained that allowing migrants to return to the Gambia would cause a “social upheaval” he also added that Gambia is trying to perverse and “consolidate the peace, stability and democracy,” and presumably, allowing Gambian nations to reentry would hinder the country’s development.
Gambia’s decision could also be tied to an underlying political motive tied to the election, according to a European Union Diplomat.
The Gambia and the EU
The topic of immigration between The Gambia and the EU has long been sore spot for both parties. For example, in 2018, the two entities signed an agreement called the “Good Practices document on identification and return procedures.” Allegedly, Gambia has not fully upheld its end of the agreement.
The European Council is also looking into a proposal that would make it harder for Gambians to obtain an EU visa due to the country’s “failure to cooperate on readmission.”
A Ugandan expert in international law, Gawaya Tegulle, said that each country has a duty and obligation to accept its nationals back and The Gambia’s decision is unlawful and breaks international law. “Therefore, the action per se by the government of the Gambia has no place under international law,” Tegulle said to DW news, and further stated that “It is illegal before we start even to list the demerits of the circumstances surrounding the decision.” On the other hand, Tegulle disagrees with Germany’s decision to expel Gambians and says that both nations made the wrong decision.
Analysis and Implications
EU’s decision to expel Gambian migrants is not new. In 2019, migrant Gambians faced the same dilemma of having to leave their home in hopes of finding a safer home just to get deported to their country.
One issue is the proof required to establish that a migrant is a national of a country.
No human, especially a migrant fleeing their country in seeking better opportunities, should be left in limbo, not knowing where their permeant address lies. A problem is that the flood of migrants from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, the Northern Triangle, Myanmar, and many other countries is unsustainable. The tide of refugees imposes significant pressure on the existing international refugee law.
The September Issue of the IELR will have a more comprehensive discussion of this topic.