Gambia Repatriates Stranded Migrants from Tunisia

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By Biran Gaye

The Gambia government in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has repatriated dozens of stranded Gambian migrants from Tunisia, marking the highest chartered voluntary return of migrants from the country in a single day, since the establishment of the Organization’s operations in the country in 2001.

They were bound for Europe through the Mediterranean, but got stuck in the North African country.  

Earlier on Friday afternoon, the government repatriated a total of 141 Gambian migrants to the country, according to IOM. The Gambia’s counselor to Morocco Amadou Jawo and the IOM coordinated the reparation efforts.

IOM reported that most of the migrants, all of whom are men, were stranded in Al Amra and Jebeniana localities of Sfax. Prior to departure, the Organization supported the migrants with registration and documentation services, safe accommodation, health assessments, transportation assistance, and counselling services. 

“When I go back home, I will go back to school and continue my diploma,” said 18-year-old Barry as quoted by IOM, prior to departing for Banjul.   

Tunisia is one of the main launching points for boats carrying refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, with most heading for Italy, in particular its island of Lampedusa.

On arrival, the International Organization for Migration-The Gambia team received the migrants and provided them with immediate assistance, including non-food item kits, temporary accommodation, medical and psychosocial screenings.

“I am glad to come back home safely. My family will be very happy to see me,” says Edirisa, while being processed by the Gambia Immigration Department and IOM.

They will be reunited with their families and friends after being processed by IOM.

In early July, the Gambia said it had repatriated nearly 300 migrants between June 21 and July 4, over half of whom had been stranded in Libya.

Tunisia and the EU in July reached a “strategic partnership” deal to fight irregular migration in return for financial support during a sharp increase in boats leaving the North African nation for Europe. This culminates with the impounding of migrant boats attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, resulting in the repatriation of voluntary returnees to the countries of origin.

Reintegration and Support Programme

Under the IOM Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme, the Gambian returnees will receive tailored reintegration assistance to address their economic, social and psychosocial needs. The organization continued to renew its commitment to addressing the needs of migrants.   

The Gambia Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) has thrived to some extent in addressing economic root causes of irregular migration by supporting youth employment and entrepreneurship. The project takes a market-led approach to improve the skills and employability of potential and returning migrants according to the demands of the job market and simultaneously creating employment opportunities along Gambian value chains. YEP focuses on vocational training and support for micro and small-sized enterprises and creates new jobs in selected sectors through value addition and market linkages.

Despite the project interventions, hundreds of Gambians continued to embark on irregular migration to Europe, with some reaching their destinations and others getting stuck in North Africa as they encounter dire humanitarian circumstances.

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