The Minister of Foreign Affairs Mamadou Tangara must inform Gambians in full about the contents of the agreement that was signed on 12 January 2021 between the Gambia and Switzerland. To merely issue a press release with high sounding promises and benefits that cannot be verified is not enough. In fact, that agreement cannot stand until it is approved by the National Assembly as required by the Constitution under Section 70(1)(c). Has this agreement been presented to the National Assembly yet?

Gambians must know that the Swiss Government has also issued a press release on the same agreement on the same day. But their press release did not say all that the Gambia press release mentioned. The Swiss press release noted that they have signed similar agreements with eight other African countries. So, it is not just about the Gambia.

In their press release, the Swiss said that the “State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) intends to continue to support Gambian authorities in handling migration, not least by helping to implement projects locally.” They went further to say that SEM is already supporting local projects to build national capacity as well as national response to COVID through IOM. Finally, part of the agreement deals with the issue of returnees, which the Swiss authorities said relates to “the practical organization of returnees, such as identification and the issuing of replacement documents.”

Apparently, the press release from our Foreign Minister Tangara is not fully in line with the press release from the Swiss. For example, our Foreign Ministry said the agreement deals with “unemployment and creation of more opportunities for women and youth in the Gambia”. What are these opportunities and how did the agreement handle that?

The Gambian press release also said they negotiated for “all undocumented Gambian migrants in Switzerland to be trained on livelihood skills and be integrated in Swiss community? The press release further said that both countries have agreed that “all legal remedies will be exhausted before any voluntary returnees will be repatriated.” Tangara’s press release also states that the agreement will “pave the way for the establishment of a multi-purpose skills training centre and create other opportunities for young people to achieve their goals in the Gambia.” Finally, the Gambian press release said both countries agreed on “spelt-out modalities… to ensure equitable and balanced life for Gambians in Switzerland…”.

These are lofty ideals in the Gambian press release but they are not mentioned in the Swiss press release. Therefore, are both press releases true or false, or is one or both of them overstating or understating the terms of this agreement? Citizens have a right to know.

Therefore, I hereby call on the National Assembly to scrutinise this agreement fully. We know that the issue of irregular migration and the presence of undocumented migrants, especially Africans is a major issue for Europe. They are very eager to stop irregular migration and are doing everything possible to stop it.

While European nations, and indeed any other country, have a right and duty to manage their immigration issues, in the same vein the Gambia Government also has a right and a duty not to accept agreements that undermine the rights and welfare of our citizens at home or abroad. After all migration is a fundamental human right guaranteed by international law, which also protects the rights of migrants, documented or undocumented, anywhere in the world. Hence no nation should put up unreasonable migration laws and agreements just to deny others from visiting their country.

If the Gambia Government is to allow Gambians to be deported from Europe and America then the Government must ensure that it has the necessary support to offer to these returnees in order to enable them have a meaningful and productive life at home. We must not forget that our people spend their life’s fortune and in addition to risking life just to get to Europe. Hence the Government must not accept to have these people deported anyhow simply because they are undocumented. The Government should protect the best interest of our people.

Therefore, the Government must take responsibility to ensure that returnees’ rights and needs are addressed. Otherwise, the Government would be undermining national security if it allows scores of Gambians to be deported anyhow only to come back to the same poverty from which they were running away. After all, the Government must bear in mind that it is these Gambians in Europe and other places who are sending those billions of dalasi in remittances every year thereby sustaining both our economy and families.

Therefore, I hereby call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Gambians Abroad Mamadou Tangara to release the full agreement publicly so that Gambian citizens will see and know what has been agreed in their name and on their behalf and for their welfare. It is our right to know.

For The Gambia Our Homeland