Thousands of miles east of the vast African continent; far from where European tourists luxuriate in the intoxicatingly blissful ocean breeze and the magical beauty of the Gambia’s serene Atlantic coastline, a heterogeneous group of young Gambians face the challenges of a lifetime, in a country that seems more hostile than the world’s most massive gulag prison camp; North Korea. China; a country steeped in culture, and a nation on the rise to global superpowerdom, seems at once both mysterious and unpleasant.
For, China has a dark side, which a majority of European visitors will never experience; a side that is unwelcoming, even hostile to visitors from the continent that most of all bends over backwards to make the Chinese experience in Africa gratifying and memorable. In a country that now has so much, it should be a mark of honor for China to embrace the dignity of caring for persons from parts of the world ravaged by man-made disasters. China cannot expect recognition as a leader in global politics with its doors shuttered on a segment of the world’s population who come from a continent that is inextricably tied to China’s economic growth. China’s is enormously dependent on Africa for resources to fuel its massive growth, and for the country to treat Gambian refugees in such a horrible fashion, as if the UN Convention and Protocol do not matter, is mind-boggling and unacceptable. As China continues to expands its citizens’ massive presence on African soil, Africans expect reciprocation to their generosity in order to make the lives of African refugees in China both pleasant and tolerable. This will further cement China’s bilateral relationship with the African continent as China seeks to benefit from exploitation of Africa’s vast natural resources. China’s presence on the UN Security Council, notwithstanding, it’s non-existent relations with Gambia speaks the difficulty of rationalizing with the tyrannical regime in Gambia. The mass exodus of Gambians citizens to safe havens in distant lands is driven by absolutely horrendous human-rights record in their country.
In 1951, the United Nations Convention, which was subsequently amended as the 1967 Protocol, defines lawful refugee as “Persons who flee their countries because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights, or other circumstances, which have seriously disturbed public order.” Since the military took power in Gambia in 1994, thousands of Gambians have fled to safety in lands near and far, from Senegal to South Korea; Mali to Los Angeles. Inarguably, Gambia is today the one country in Africa more racked by state-sanctioned violence than any other, and the regime’s litany of crimes range from executions, murder, inhuman treatment, barbaric torture and mass incarceration. The Gambian regime’s cruelty includes forced disappearances, which has become a common occurrence particularly among Gambians who reside overseas and are forced to return home and Gambians who return voluntarily to attend family funerals or visit aging parents and family. The last two attempts to remove the military regime failed, but it turned Gambia into a hellhole with indiscriminant arrests and incarceration without trial,, which includes poisoning death and abduction of Gambian citizens sheltered in neighboring Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Guinea-Conakry. Gambians are routinely kidnapped and disappeared and recently, Gambians with dual US citizenship, Alhaji Ceesay and Ebrima Jobe were abducted in Gambia and have never been heard from. Businessman Saul Ndow and politician Mahawa Cham, both exiled in Senegal, were kidnapped and have not been seen or heard from ever since. Gambians refugees fleeing to China are not unlike those in the US and Western Europe, but China’s treatment of its African refugees contravenes the UN Convention and Protocol. Gambian refugee’s constant fear of arrest and incarcerated by police maybe violating the1951 UN Convention and the 1967 UN Protocol on refugees..
More specifically, Baba Mansally, a Ganbian refugee in the city of Guangzhou, Modou Cham resident in Beijing, Ensa Suso incarcerated in Beijing for over eight months, without the money to bail himself out or leave the country, Habib Boye, also incarcerated in Guangzhou for over six months who lacks the wherewithal to self-bail or leave China, Lamin Charty, also incarcerated, but whose whereabout is unknown, Tijan Jallow, a resident of Beijing and Mariama Camara, the only female, also resident Guangzhou, are collectively under extremely difficult conditions in China and all their efforts to seek UNHCR assistanc in Beijing and elsewhere, has been absolutely futile. Their constant harassment by Chinese police and the arrests and incarcerations almost bothers on inhuman treatment, but it is certainly cruel. Apart from the police harrassmernt, those refugees who are free, remain unemployed, hungry and fearful of being arrested and jailed by police like their compatriots. Even going out to find food is by itself is a nightmare done at a great risk of being arrest. The constant theme the refugees are told is that they are not allowed to live in Beijing. In addition, China is said to routinely expel refugees to third countries regardless of the UN Convention and Protocal it is signatory to. The UNHCR in Beijing opens its door to refugees on Wednesdays only between 10 am and 5 pm and the agency’s promises to return calls are almost never followed through. In public interactions with Chinese citizens is a disgraceful experience as they, more often than not, close their noses and avoid contacts with Africans. This kind of behavior and public display of bigotry speaks to Chinese attitudes towards black people in general. The Gambian refugees in China don’t deserve to live in such torture; in fact, no human being deserves to be treated like a sub-human. The condition of Gambians in China; without jobs, no food, no housing, no identity, no UNHCR assistance subjects them to terrible psychological burdens. But more, to return these refugees back to Gambia where they are in jeopardy of losing their lives, or face cruel prison conditions, is against the spirit of the Geneva Convention. The Gambia has often been described as the North Korea of West Africa. That says a lot, China a neighbors of North Korea should what this implies. These refugees from The Gambia deserve to be treated the same way Chinese citizens are treated all across the African continent.