By: Kebba AF Touray
Officials of the Gambian Association in Turkey dubbed ‘the Real Responders’ have stated that the situation of their countrymen in Turkey is worrying as they alleged that the Police in Turkey are always arresting, detaining and deporting them.
The officials of the Real Responders made this and other remarks during an interview with this medium on the conditions of Gambians, some of whom they alleged are currently imprisoned by Turkish authorities and awaiting deportation to the Gambia.
During the interview, Assistant Secretary General of the Association, Yakombeh Gaye, said: “The situation of Gambians in Turkey is so worrying as the Police in Turkey are always arresting, detaining and deporting them back to The Gambia, and sometimes, the deportees buy their own air ticket.”
She stated the readiness and the continued efforts of their association in resolving the matter. However, she said the association cannot do much without the help of the Gambian Embassy in Turkey.
According to Gaye, they hardly reach the Gambian Embassy in Turkey via telephone to lodge their complaints.
She recollected that in one of their meetings with the Embassy Staff, the Deputy Ambassador, Mr Marena, cited their busy schedule as the reason why the association hardly gets them on phone.
“There has never come a day that they pick their office line. The Ambassador and deputy Ambassador are using Gambia lines on Whatsapp and can only be reached when they are online and they don’t respond when we call their office line,” she added.
She further alleged that the only time the Ambassador would call her is when the Ambassador needed something from their association or he needed something in Istanbul, and that, if she is on a mission for the Embassy, they pick her calls anytime she calls but when that mission is completed, the Embassy hardly picks her calls.
“The ambassador has not yet come to meet the Gambian community in Istanbul, to make it short, he doesn’t care about our problems. During our meeting that the association’s executives had with the Ambassador, he said the President knows about our problems and they discussed it. When he was appointed the president told him to do his best for the Gambians in Turkey, but the ambassador is doing the opposite,” she alleged.
She averred that at the time of the interview, the Vice President and the Secretary of the association are part of those to be deported anytime; adding that she always sends the details of Gambian detainees to the Embassy. However, she said that when the Embassy fails to reply to her mail, she would then call to inform them of the matter.
According to her, the Embassy is again requesting her to send them the list of those that are under detention, which she refused because she had done that.
She reiterated that the association is doing its best, especially the president, Mr Malick Borrow but they can’t achieve their objectives without the help of the Embassy; adding that many of their members are undocumented and their hands are tied.
“All we need from the Embassy is to pick our calls, listen to our problems and stand for us. They are not doing as expected,” she alleged.
Yasanau Gomez, the Public Relations Officer of the Association, said that they are encountering difficulties, due to lack of residential permit coupled with deportation.
“Any day we wake up in the morning, we receive a lot of complaints coupled with arrest of Gambians, which is resulting in some Gambians not going to work as most of them are in Prisons; some of whom have been in prisons for almost 10 months amidst difficulties in the prisons,” she alleged.
She added that some of the detainees are sick while in prisons, noting that all their efforts to get support from the Gambia Government have proved futile. She alleged that they do not know the current Ambassador and they have never seen him.
“He is enjoying life in Ankara and we are suffering here. He has been brought here for our sake, but since he is not pressing up to his responsibilities and our problems are compounding, we want him to go back to the Gambia and a new Ambassador be appointed who can serve the people of Gambians in Turkey,” she said.
When contacted to shed light on the matter, the Turkish Ambassador to the Gambia, Tolga Bermek, said residential permit is for special visa holders such as those who go to Turkey for medical treatment and students.
“Having a valid visa from our Embassy will not give you the right to get the residential permit in Turkey, because residential permit is given to certain people who are going to Turkey for a long period like medical treatment and students. These kinds of exceptional cases they can apply for residential permits,” said Ambassador Bermek.
He, however, said that people who go to Turkey for short visits such as tourist and business visas, they issue them a single-entry visa for a temporary period with multiple entry sometimes, but said it will not give them the right for residential permit.
He added that sometimes businessmen go to Turkey for business and touristic purposes, and they extend their duration of stay and sometimes when they want to return at the airport, they pay a small amount of penalties.
He added that some of these people would prefer to stay in Turkey even when their duration of stay is over.
“In those cases, when the police notice the situation, they would do their work in accordance with the law and would deport them. This does not only apply to Gambian citizens alone but citizens of other nations,” he said.
On the purported arrest, detention and deportation of Gambians, he said those issues are allegations.
This reporter contacted the Director of Diaspora and Migration Affairs at the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs, Musa Camara, for comment on the matter, but he said that he is currently on study leave in the Netherlands.
When contacted for comment, Gambian Ambassador in Turkey, Alkali Conteh, told this reporter that he was in a Ministerial meeting and could not harp on it.
This reporter will continue to engage The Gambian authorities on the matter and inform the readers accordingly.