NEW GAMBIA AND ACCEPTING DEPORTED CITIZENS

This is a highly emotive issue, not just for The Gambia but for Africa in general. The Diaspora Gambians/Africans feel strongly that African governments must not “collude” with Western governments to make it easier for the Western governments to deport Africans residing in the West. (Latin American countries take a similar stance with regard to US deportations).

African countries are between a rock and a hard place – so to speak. Diaspora Africans, who contribute massively to their home countries development through hard-earned financial remittances, overwhelming say NO to the idea of African governments agreeing to accept any of their citizens deported by the West. On the other hand, the economically powerful Western governments are pressurising African governments to say YES and accept African deportees. An example is a case in the High Court here in London last week where it was ruled that a Somalian has been “Lawful Jailed” for four years – while the British Government tries to get the Somali Government to accept him: he even landed at Mogadishu Airport with British Immigration escort only to be kept on the same plane and be sent back to London (and jail): Neutral Citation Number: [2017] EWHC 550 (Admin) 24 March 2017 Between ISSE MURSAL BOTAN and SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT.

Gambia’s new government faces this dilemma acutely. Dictator Jammeh was happy to alienate the West (describing Western Aid as “chicken feed”!) and he deliberately politicised the issue and condemned the West for its treatment of African migrants. But Jammeh bankrupted The Gambia through massive theft and stole as much as he could before he was forced from power by West African military forces. The new government needs an emergency bail-out of the nation’s precarious finances – and also needs new funds for development projects, mostly urgently in the agricultural sector to feed the nation. Europe, UK and USA, all of whom hated Dictator Jammeh’s government are well disposed to the new government in The Gambia and have already started releasing much needed financial assistance. But there is a catch – a quid pro quo requirement.

The West want the new Gambian government to show cooperation on the issue of Gambians deemed illegal residents and whose deportation has been ordered by the courts. Further, the Western governments are proposing to link the issue of development aid to a country’s willingness to cooperate on the issue of deported migrants.

Gambia’s new government will have to undertake a costs balance analysis which will go something like this:

One, unhappy or not, Diaspora Gambians will still continue to remit funds … afterall, they sent funds home even during Jammeh’s hated dictatorship (even when Jammeh kept 10% or so of all remittances to himself!);

Two, development funds affect the needs of the whole two million Gambian population;

Three, deportation will only affect a few hundred migrants who will be accorded full due process through the courts before being deported;

Four, the document signed will apply equally to the partner countries, word for word, so that, for example, people with criminal records in UK cannot enter The Gambia and the UK fully agrees to accept any of its citizens deported by the Gambia Government after due process.

The Diaspora Gambians will still not be happy, and it will remain a dilemma for the new Gambian Government – but they may not have much of a choice if they desperately need Western financial support. Despite the chorus of disapproval from Diaspora Gambians, the Gambia Government will have to accept deported Gambians in order to keep Western goodwill and get access to much needed development aid.

Put bluntly, unless Gambia finds oil offshore, Gambia does not have the resources to fund national development. The development of The Gambia that we all want must come from

  1. Funding from Western governments;
  2. Funding from Western development partners;
  3. The Tourism Industry with visitors and investment funds from the West and
  4. Inward Investment from the West – including from Diaspora Gambians investing at home and
  5. Funding from charities and individuals in the West who raise funds to support hospitals, build libraries, dig wells, etc.

It is a “Hobson’s Choice”: accepting Western aid and financial assistance means we have to accept Gambian citizens deported from the West – after due process through the courts.

Dida Halake,

Notting Hill,

London, UK.