From 2022 To Date
By Nelson Manneh
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Momodou Tangar said from 2022 to date, the Foreign Ministry has facilitated the evacuation of eight hundred (800) Gambian migrants from the Kingdom of Morocco.
The Foreign Affairs Minister made these statements on Monday 24th January 2023, during a press briefing at the Ministry’s Headquarters in Banjul.
According to Minister Tangara, migration presents significant challenges where some migrants are exploited and their human rights abused. He said integration in destination countries can be difficult and reintegration could be challenging for some migrants returning to their own countries voluntarily or otherwise. He said his Ministry has made series of responsive, proactive and timely interventions globally, whenever the lives of Gambian citizens are at risk, with some of these operations successfully undertaken solely by the government, and others coordinated with partners.
Dr. Tangara said on 8 January 2022, the Foreign Ministry with its Embassy in Washington and Permanent Mission in New York, worked closely and tirelessly with the New York authorities in locating survivors, and in assisting the injured and families of the bereaved during the Bronx Fire incident.
That in February 2022, following the political and military tensions between Ukraine and Russia, the Foreign Ministry gave instructions to its Embassy in Brussels to deploy two staff to the Ukraine-Poland border, to successfully evacuate forty-eight (48) Gambian nationals (mainly students), to safety. He said Gambia’s operation in evacuating her citizens from Ukraine was commended as the timeliest and most successful.
That in April 2022, the Foreign Ministry negotiated with the Libyan authorities to release from jail and hand over twelve (12) Gambian nationals, to the Gambian Association in Libya for repatriation. That these people would have still been under custody without the Ministry’s timely intervention to successfully evacuate and reunite them with their families.
That in August 2022, the Foreign Ministry with its Embassy in Abu Dhabi secured the release and facilitated the return of thirty-four Gambian nationals to be reunited with their families, and in November 2022, the Foreign Ministry sent a Consular Mission to Libya that secured the release of over three hundred Gambian migrants under immigration detention. He said the State of Libya has been a destination / transit to many Gambian migrants and that currently, there are about eighteen thousand (18,000) Gambians in Libya either resident or on transit to Europe. He said the Foreign Ministry’s delegation was able to engage the relevant Libyan Authorities on the plight and welfare of Gambian migrants.
According to Dr. Tangara, from January to December 2022, the Ministry in collaboration with The Gambian Association in Libya and the IOM, facilitated the evacuation of four non-scheduled flights with each flight carrying about one hundred and fifty Gambian migrants from Libya. That in 2023, the Ministry and IOM facilitated the evacuation of two non-scheduled flights including one in June, carrying one hundred and fifty-six migrants, with another flight carrying one hundred and sixty-five migrants expected to arrive on the 26th of July 2023.
He said in December 2022, the Ministry deployed a Consular Mission to Mauritania where the frequency of boat interceptions and the number of Gambians being returned and left stranded at the Mauritania – Senegal boarder, raised serious concerns for the Ministry. That the delegation with officials of the Gambian Mission in Nouakchott met with the Gambian communities and relevant Mauritanian authorities. He said in December 2022, the Ministry facilitated the evacuation of twenty-six Gambian migrants from Cabo Verde whose boat went missing for days, before they could safely sail to Cabo Verde; adding in February 2023, the Ministry through its Mission in Qatar facilitated the return of forty stranded Gambian migrants from Doha, to be reunited with their families. He said these were low skilled labourers who were recruited by private agencies in preparation for the World Cup Football competition and were stranded following the termination of their contracts.
The Minister said in April 2023, his Ministry with the Embassy in Rabat and Consulate in Dakhla, in the Kingdom of Morocco, successfully facilitated the repatriation of two hundred and thirty-three Gambian migrants following the interception of their boat by the Moroccan authorities. He added on 10th May 2023, fifty-seven Gambian nationals comprising fifty six students and one professional football player, arrived in Banjul as part of the sixty-six Gambians who were successfully repatriated; noting the Foreign Ministry with its Mission in Jeddah, repatriated Gambians from Sudan to Jeddah, following the eruption of fighting in Khartoum, in mid-April 2023. He used the opportunity to thank Dr Abou Jeng, a Gambian working with the UN system in Sudan and Mr Hamidou Jah, for their outstanding support towards the evacuation process.
He said last year, the Foreign Ministry and its Mission in Nouakchott in collaboration with The Gambia Red Cross Society and their counterparts in Senegal and Mauritania, facilitated the evacuation of six hundred Gambian migrants from Mauritania and about three hundred this year. He said the Foreign Ministry and its Mission in Dakar facilitated the evacuation of about three hundred Gambian migrants from Senegal since last year.
According to Dr. Tangara, his Ministry with the Honorary Consul Modibo Diarra in Bamako, repatriated more than fifty Gambian migrants including minors from January 2023 to date, to be reunited with their families, and said in January this year, fifteen Gambian migrants who were thought to be mercenaries and arrested by the Malian authorities while traveling through irregular routes in Mali, were reunited with their families. He said they were released through the intervention of his Ministry and the Honorary Consul. Minister Tangara said following the unfortunate development concerning the situation of Gambian migrants in Tunisia, the Foreign Ministry deployed two officials of its Embassy in Rabat, in the Kingdom of Morocco, to Tunisia to provide consular services to stranded Gambians, adding sixty Gambian migrants were processed and issued with emergency travel documents, and the IOM will support their evacuation to The Gambia on 27th July 2023, to reunite with their families. He said his Ministry will continue to monitor developments concerning Gambian migrants in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Niger.
“An unfortunate situation that still worries this Ministry and the Government of the Gambia, is the missing boat that left the shores of Gunjur on 8th November 2021. The boat carrying two hundred migrants including thirty-nine from Gunjur, left the shores of Gunjur into the Mediterranean Sea for Europe. The boat got missing and until today, their whereabouts cannot be established. When the information came to the attention of the Foreign Ministry, we engaged our Missions in Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Spanish Border Guards on a search mission. But until today, their trace could not be found,” he said. Dr. Tangara said his Ministry had engagements with the community of Gunjur who claimed the migrants were intercepted in Mauritania, and that in December 2022, the Ministry facilitated and escorted three youth from Gunjur to Mauritania, on a fact-finding mission where all the prisons and immigration detention centres were visited, but none of the missing migrants could be found.