Appearing before deputies at the National Assembly last week, the minister of foreign affairs, international cooperation and Gambians abroad, Momodou Tangara, informed the House that a certain European Union member country was trying to deport Gambians which government had refused to entertain.
A diplomatic source within EU has reached out over the telephone to express disbelieve at the tone at which the foreign minister chose to describe events. Indications are that the country in question is Germany, with over fifteen thousands Gambians (15,534) residing on its territory, a third of which (4,837) are liable for deportation – per foreign ministry stats. Evidently, Germany has expressed continued wish to remove refused asylum seekers from its soil, as seen with the high level visit of its president, Frank Walter Steinmeier, to Banjul in 2017.
A highly placed EU official has informed me its mission in Banjul had written to The Gambia government to inform that NO Gambian shall be removed or deported from Europe throughout the awful coronavirus pandemic episode. Foreign minister Tangara’s statement to parliament was received in Brussels and Berlin as “unfriendly”, especially after his ministry wrote back to thank EU on the gesture.
This is not true and “unfriendly” – sources within EU told me. It was agreed that no deportation will take place from EU to Gambia during COVID-19 era which has been communicated to the foreign ministry through a letter.
The only country deporting Gambians, the EU official told me, is the one across the Atlantic Ocean. When I interjected if the country being referred was Trump’s America, the reaction indeed was. And there is an element of truth in that hence the United States has consistently pressured the Barrow government to accept deportees – indiscriminately deporting nonviolent Gambians tied in chains – in stark violation of basic human rights.
Experience in the foreign policy world led one to believe recent diplomatic cables received in Berlin has roughed up some feathers. The Europeans will have expressed aghast that foreign minister Tangara misled parliament on such a critical topic of continued negotiation. The National Assembly through the chair on foreign relations committee, need to summon the foreign minister to clarify, and to shed clearer light on the status of wider negotiations on EU deportations.
The good news, however, I am pleased to report that NO Gambian shall be deported from EU member countries this year as negotiations resume post-Covid19.
Gibril Saine is based in the United Kingdom