Many Gambian irregular migrants in Europe are feeling uneasy after news broke out in July that they may soon be deported. The announcement was made by the European Union (EU) Ambassador to The Gambia, Attila Lajos. He said talks are ongoing between the EU and Gambian authorities to repatriate migrants whose asylum claims have been rejected.
According to the EU Ambassador, migrants who have exhausted all the legal ways to obtain asylum are now residing illegally in the EU. Therefore, a court order has been issued to send them home.
Reacting to the news with dismay, several migrants criticised the decision.
Speaking to The Migrant Project on the condition of anonymity for safety reasons, one of the affected migrants said he was rejected three times by authorities in his host country and stated that deporting them back to the Gambia will end their dreams of earning a decent living in Europe.
“We are shocked by this decision, it is going to be a massive blow to us, considering the amount of money we spent, not to mention the difficulties we encountered during our risky attempt to come here,” he said.
Another migrant living in Italy, who also wished to remain anonymous, said he has had sleepless nights since the announcement was made. The young man who said he lived in Libya for a year before crossing to Italy added that the decision to deport them will cause many migrants serious mental suffering.
“We have sacrificed a lot to come here, going through hardships under hostile Libyan smugglers and kidnappers… we could have lost our lives just like some of our friends.”
“When we arrived here, we thought that we had found a home,” he added. “Unfortunately for me and many others, we have been living in camps, we submitted asylum requests and they have been rejected by the Italian authorities citing security reasons.”
Commenting on the same issue, Kabiro, a Gambian residing in the Netherlands said he had been a victim of political persecution under the Jammeh regime and recalled going to jail five times due to his political activism. He then managed to escape to the Netherlands where he later applied for asylum. His requests were denied because he said authorities were not convinced with the authenticity of his case.
“They said my case is fictitious and that I was trying to secure documents. I was later issued a deportation order after the change of government in Gambia, now it appears certain that the deportation will be effected,” he said.
The families of these migrants back home are feeling the same distress. Aja Fanta Ceesay, Mariana Colley and 70 year-old Fabakary Jadama, parents of the migrants interviewed, condemned the decision saying the EU should integrate their sons and daughters instead of banishing them.
According to Fabakary, his son in Germany is his only source of help; he is very worried about his survival if his son is deported. The septuagenarian called on the government to dialogue with the EU and look for an alternative to the deportation plan.
However, the EU Ambassador made clear in his statement that people cannot stay in EU illegally, “One of the basic principles in EU countries is the respect for rule of law… no country will allow illegal migrants in their country,” he said.
Ambassador Lajos added that the EU is in negotiation with the Gambian government on how to manage the returns to avoid a huge number of migrants return to The Gambia when the country is not ready to absorb and reintegrate them.
The ambassador also announced that the EU was planning to launch a package of efforts aimed at addressing the root causes of migration with the theme, ‘build a future, make it in Gambia’ which would invest roughly €23 million from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa in different projects in the country