The issue of deportations and repatriations from Europe to The Gambia is in the news again. This time round, it is the Government of The Gambia which is announcing that it is lifting the moratorium on deportations of Gambians from Europe.
The issue of illegal migration is certainly a thorny and sensitive one as it has strong correlations with the economic condition of a nation. If poverty is the lot of the majority of the people in a country, some of the citizens – especially the young – will surely find a way of going in search of greener pastures.
Of course, there are other causes of illegal migration, like wars and persecutions, but most often than not, it is economic hardships and the lack of job opportunities that compel people to seek ways of migrating. This has been the trend over the past few years or so.
Sometime two years ago, the Government of The Gambia came under sustained criticisms that it had signed an agreement with the European Union to repatriate Gambians who had been denied documents in the country. At the time, the government repeatedly denied that it had signed any such agreement with the EU.
After a few flights from Europe returning migrants to the country, the government announced that they were placing a moratorium on such repatriations. Now it seems, negotiations with the EU have enabled them to lift that moratorium and accept the returnees into the country. International law stipulates that a country cannot – should not – refuse to accept returnee-citizens from entering the country.
Of course, there are various and complex considerations keeping in mind the poor economy and what an influx of returnees will do to the fragile economic situation in the country. But that is not an excuse to refuse to accept one’s people when they are to be returned. The Europeans also have their own sets of problems which are compelling them to find a way to return these migrants.
What therefore is the way forward? The Government of The Gambia and the European Union should negotiate and find ways of giving skills to these young people so that when they come home they will be able to find jobs and earn a living. Perhaps it will not be enough to only give them skills but also give them a capital to start serving which will enable them stand on their own feet.