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Gambian President Adama Barrow. Wikipedia
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Gambia refuses to take back deported migrants

The government of the West African mini-state Gambia is not even considering taking back its own citizens in the course of repatriations. Their argument is that this would lead to “social unrest”.

Published: September 21, 2021, 8:28 am

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    Although 6000 of the 15 000 Gambians who are currently in Germany have long been required to leave the country due to a negative asylum decision, the deportations cannot be carried out. The reason: The Gambian government under President Adama Barrow has not issued a landing permit for deportation pilots from Germany or other EU countries since 2019.

    The Islamic country has argued that deportees from Europe are “unintegrable”; they would only bring turmoil and unrest to the small West African country. The government is thus failing to comply with its obligations under international law to take its own nationals back into the country, according to the EU.

    When thousands of Gambians return, “social unrest” can be expected. “We are trying to consolidate peace, stability and democracy in our country,” a spokesman for the Gambian government told the Austrian tabloid Exxpress.

    Criminals sending money home

    In African countries, as in Europe, migration is a policy. Barrow, the incumbent President of the Gambia, has repeatedly announced through spokesmen and the media that he was not interested in taking back Gambian emigrants since large parts of the three million Gambian citizens do not want to see the young men back in their country. It seems that the departure of many young men for Germany is seen as a way to end crime and violence in their home country.

    There may be another reason. The money sent home from Germany makes a significant contribution to the gross domestic product — more than a fifth, exactly 21 percent, comes from the diaspora. Anyone who is deported to Gambia no longer receives any social benefits from Europe. “Many livelihoods depend on money transfers from Europe,” said an activist from an aid organization, Julian Staiger.

    Social ostracism for returnees

    As German daily Die Welt reported, for example, a 25-year-old Gambian who returned voluntarily was excluded from his family and ostracized. He had saved some money through German welfare and benefits and was fulfilling his dream of having his own farm in his home country. But this displeased his wife, and she left him. “She still thinks that I was deported from Germany and came back empty-handed,” complained the Gambian.

    Landing bans could create a legal precedent

    German and Austrian authorities fear that these landing bans could also become a growing trend in other African countries. It remains to be seen whether these deportation bans will continue. Some 85 percent of the Gambians who applied for asylum in Germany last year received a negative decision. But nobody has been deported since 2019.

    An estimated 118 000 Gambians live abroad, according to the International Organisation for Migration. The West African country signed a non-binding agreement on returns with the EU in 2018 but according to a EU diplomat, this has “never been fully respected”.

    The majority of asylum applications by Gambian citizens have been turned down because of a lack of travel documents. Talks between the Commission and Gambian President Adama Barrow failed to solve the problem. Yet according to a reliable list compiled by the German police force, there are currently 6 569 Gambians in Germany who are obliged to leave the country.

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