By Assan Sallah
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, led by Hon. Sidia Jatta, National Assembly Member for Wuli West, is currently in Germany, to engage the German authorities with the hope of finding a lasting solution to the problems faced by Gambian asylum seekers and the problems of irregular migration to Europe especially Germany.
The delegation comprised four National Assembly Members, namely; Hon. Sidia Jatta, Member for Wuli West; Hon. Baba Galleh Jallow, Member for Sannehmentereng; Hon. Billay G. Tunkara, Member for Kantora and Hon. Bakary Camara, Member for Kiang Central; and two senior officials of the Gambia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry; Mr. Ebrima Mboob, Director of European Affairs Division and the Commonwealth and Mr. Abdoulie Jaffuneh, Director of Diaspora Affairs. Alhagie Morro Dumbuya, a senior Researcher at the National Assembly is also part of the delegation.
The team had arrived in Germany on the 8th February and will wrap-up the working visit on 14th of February 2020. There mission is to engage the German authorities on the fate of Gambian asylum seekers, with the hope of finding a lasting solution. Starting from Berlin to Stuttgart, the delegation had met with several top officials of the Government such as the German MPs, Thomas Strobl, the German Interior Minister (Innenminister) for Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, Minister President of Baden-Württemberg and senior officials of the Green party (the ruling party in Baden-Württemberg, where most Gambian asylum seekers are residing), among many other important dignitaries.
Accompanied by the Deputy Head of Mission of the Gambian Embassy in Brussels (Belgium), HE, Mrs Ndey Haddy Jeng, the Gambian delegation also met with executive members of the Gambia Refugees Association – Europe Branch on Tuesday evening in Stuttgart, south of Germany.
Speaking at the meeting, Dr Gerald Knaus, Chairman of the European Stability Initiative (ESI), a migration consultant who wrote The Gambia Plan (Win-Win Situation) for The Gambia and Germany, said it is important that they discuss the way forward for this irregular migration especially on the Gambian situation. He said if Gambian Parliamentarians push forward for The Gambia-Germany Plan now, and that such a breakthrough is supported by the diaspora, then they would bring this message back to Banjul, and serious talks could start between the two governments, adding that the sooner the better.
“The more advocacy we do to find a solution soon, the better for both The Gambia and Germany. The key is to get Germany, and legally it must be the states like Baden-Württemberg, to find a solution to grant security against deportations; offer integration for Gambians who are already here, and to offer more legal mobility, plus make Gambia priority country for development cooperation. In return, the Gambian government should cooperate to discourage future irregular migration to Germany / EU,” he remarked.
Dr Knaus had visited The Gambia at least three times since 2017 to date and his last visit was in December 2019, when he met Gambian Parliamentarians, some ministers, the National Youth Council and also organised a press conference at the Coco Ocean Hotel in Bijilo.
During his recent Gambia visit, Dr Knaus presented his plan, (The Gambia Plan ) to members of the Parliament . see link..https://www.esiweb.org/index.php… .
On his part, Hon. Sidia Jatta, head of the delegation, said their trip is fully funded by the Gambia’s National Assembly. He said their trip is prompted by the German Government’s efforts to constantly engage key Gambia Government authorities in the hope of agreeing to a way forward regarding irregular migration and the fate of Gambian nationals in Germany who currently face potential deportation.
According to him, the National Assembly has made an action plan to visit migrants in Europe, and to meet German authorities to address this problem.
Hon. Jatta disclosed that during their meeting with the Interior minister of Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Strobl, they were assured that there is no planned mass deportation, unlike the previous years. However, he was quick to say that this does not mean that there will not be any deportation, as negotiations are still ongoing.
While advising Gambian refugees and migrants to continue to be law abiding, Hon. Jatta was also optimistic that positive changes will happen.
Commenting on a position paper presented by the Gambia Refugees Association – Europe Branch on the current situation of Gambian asylum seekers in Germany and the way forward and solution to their problems, the Wuli West NAM said the fundamentals of the said position paper are not different from what has been discussed with the German Interior minister. He commended the Gambia Refugees Association for the great initiative and hard work they are doing for The Gambia and Gambian asylum seekers.
HE Ndey Haddy Jeng, Deputy Head of Mission at the Gambia Embassy in Brussels, said they had a lot of discussion on the problems of migration and the issues of failed asylum seekers. She expressed hope that there will be a solution.
She observed that irregular migration is a consequence of underdevelopment, adding that the tragedies at sea where a lot of young Gambians lost their lives due to irregular migration are very sad. She commended the Gambia Refugees Association for their active participation in fighting for the welfare of Gambians and appealed to Gambian associations in Europe to try and register with the Embassy.
She added that the Embassy is trying to get a database of all Gambian associations and this would help to reorganize and co-ordinate their activities with the diaspora Gambians.
Commenting on some human rights violations or abuses by European police on some Gambians, the Deputy Head of Mission said the Embassy is usually not aware of such cases, adding that they will appreciate if such cases are brought to their attention.
On his part, Mr. Abdoulie Jaffuneh, Director of Diaspora Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Diaspora is regarded as the Eighth region of The Gambia and it is very important for The Gambia’s development. He said the Foreign Affairs Ministry is trying to get a database of all Gambians living abroad.
For Mr. Ebrima Mboob, Director of European Affairs Division and the Commonwealth, there is going to be light at the end of the tunnel. He too expressed optimism that there will be positive changes. He urged Gambians in the Diaspora to contact the various Embassies and the Foreign Affairs Ministry any time they need assistance and in case of any problem anywhere.
Hon. Billay G. Tunkara, Hon. Baba Galleh Jallow and Hon. Bakary Camara, all Members of the Gambian Parliament’s Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, commended the Gambia Refugees Association Europe Branch for their stance for refugees. They advised Gambians to continue to be law abiding and always remember that they are serving as Ambassadors of their country wherever they are.
The Parliamentarians expressed hope that there will be a solution to the problems faced by Gambian asylum seekers soon. They also promised to engage President Barrow constructively on these very important issues and the high-level meetings they had with the German authorities when they return to Banjul.
Speaking earlier, Assan Sallah, Chairman of the Gambia Refugees Association – Europe Branch, commended the delegation for the bold initiative taken to visit Germany and discuss with the authorities, the fate of Gambian refugees. He disclosed that the Gambia Refugees Association – Europe Branch has conducted several meetings with officials of the Interior ministry of Baden-Württemberg and migration consultants like Dr Gerald Knaus; German volunteers and helpers’ organisations, as well as Gambia refugees and migrants in Germany, to discuss ways of finding solutions to the problems that refugees are facing.
Mr. Sallah also revealed that the association has decided to write a Position Paper on the issue of Gambian asylum seekers and has suggested solutions to this problem. This document, he said, will be submitted to the German authorities upon completion, adding that it is currently reviewed by the Executive of the association and volunteers and helpers. He distributed copies of this proposed paper to the visiting delegation for further review in the interest of Gambia’s development.
He said the association has been and will continue to engage relevant authorities to suggests for Gambians to be given more chances by allowing them to do vocational trainings (Ausbildungs) and work for some time.
Mr. Sallah observed that at the moment, The Gambia needs development aid in the form of education and training. He re-iterated the need for Gambians to go to school, integrate themselves, be law abiding and work to effectively contribute to socio-economic advancement of the communities they live.
Kalifa Suwareh, Secretary General of the Gambia Refugees Association – Europe Branch, gave a brief introduction of the association. He said the group was formed in January 2019, to better re-organize Gambian refugees, support asylum seekers, fight for the welfare of the Gambian refugees, promote discipline and respect for the rule of law, among other important issues.
Currently, there are about 10, 000 registered Gambian asylum seekers in Baden-Württemberg and out of this figure, 3400 have their asylum cases rejected and are on the deportation list.
Present at this meeting were members of the Gambian delegation led by Hon. Sidia Jatta; Bamba Saho, a Gambian based in Germany; Dr Gerald Knaus, Chairman of ESI; Felipe Palma, Executive Assistant at ESI; Assan Sallah, chairman of the Gambia Refugees Association – Europe Branch; Omar Jatta, Deputy Chairman, Kalifa Suwareh, Secretary General; Yahya Sonko, Public Relations Officer (PRO); Zackaria Sowe, an Executive member and Abubacarr Drammeh, a member of the Gambia Refugees Association – Europe Branch.
Yahya Sonko, An Activist in Baden-Württemberg, who also doubles as the PRO of the association chaired the meeting. He re-echoed similar sentiments of the previous speakers of the Gambia Refugees Association.
The author Assan Sallah is a Gambian journalist living in Germany. He was news editor and security affairs reporter at the Daily Observer.