Gambian migrants, pictured here in the Frasca Centre in Rosolini, Italy. Most Gambians have almost no chances of their asylum application being accepted / Jason Florio/IRIN

Gambia rejects deportation flights from Europe

The Gambia has formally announced that it would no longer accept flights bringing its citizens deported from the European Union, the AFP reports.

Gambian foreign ministry spokesman Saikou Ceesay told the news agency that large numbers of returning migrants would cause “social upheaval” in the country. “We are trying to consolidate the peace, stability and democracy we have in this country,” he said.

The news came as Germany was preparing to expel a number of Gambians, AFP says. According to plans, a batch of rejected Gambian asylum-seekers was expected to have arrived in Banjul, Gambia’s capital, on 1 September. More than 2,000 Gambian migrants who have exhausted their asylum appeals in Germany are awaiting repatriation. Altogether, there are almost 7,000 Gambians without residence rights in Germany.

The blocking of deportation flights comes ahead of Gambia’s presidential election in December, the first since long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh was forced into exile after 22 years in power.

Analysts say the decision of the government of President Adama Barrow to block flights could be a move to shore up its support among Gambians. Critics say Barrow, who came to power through the military intervention of the regional bloc Ecowas in 2017, has largely disappointed the people as the country’s economic fortunes have not improved and violent crimes and corruption are perceived to have even worsened since the removal of Jammeh.

Other observers say the precarious economic situation in The Gambia makes it the more dependent on remittances by its nationals living abroad. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), overseas remittances of an estimated 118,000 Gambians living abroad account for more than 20% of the country’s GDP.

Lack of economic opportunities in their homeland continue to push many young Gambians towards Europe in search of better life. The IOM says more than 35,000 arrived there between 2014 and 2018 – often taking dangerous journeys over the Mediterranean.

Adira Kallo

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