By Amadou Manjang
The Gambia Immigration Department (GID) has vowed to end irregular migration before the end of the year as they launched ‘Operation Zero Departure’ to close down irregular immigration routes in the coastal areas.
The operation was unveiled on Thursday, 9 November following the recent high seas tragedies involving many Gambian youth.
‘Operation Zero Departure’ is a nationwide operation that aims to prevent boats from leaving the Gambia.
Commissioner Sulayman Kujabi said the primary target of the operation and the patrol is the human smugglers widely regarded as the ‘agents’. Commissioner Kujabi said the patrol team will conduct a 24-hour patrol, adding that the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) will support them. Kujabi stated that they would be prosecuting the smugglers.
He said his office would engage in sensitization of people about the dangers of using the perilous journey to Europe, calling on the fisher folks to stop aiding the people who want to embark on the dangerous journey.
Fishermen have been accused of helping in transporting migrants to their main boats that are usually stationed in the high sea.
The Immigration Commissioner of Operation, BabucaarxJanneh, said they intercepted twenty-seven boats that aimed to leave the country.
‘Some boats have escaped and that led to loss of lives,’ he said.
Janneh said they have recently prevented one hundred and fifty (150) people from boarding a boat in Kartong. He added that they have also stopped dozens of youths in Sutusinja and Bonto in the West Coast Region from leaving the country.
Janneh explained that the migrants use numerous waterways to leave the country.
‘They are leaving through all waterways in the country,’ he said.
Commissioner Janneh urged immigration officers to patrol in groups to avoid being attacked by the migrants, adding that some of their officers were attacked by migrants in Bakau and Barra when they attempted to stop them from leaving the country.
Janneh lamented that irregular migration is killing many young Gambians.
‘If we don’t stop this, we will lose the next generation of our youth,’ Janneh said.
He said they are intensifying their patrols along coastal areas in a view to deter the migrants from using the coast to travel. He underscored that they have received (7) new vehicles for the patrols and the GID is striving to have effective patrols along the water.
Janneh unveiled that they have one hundred (100) plain-clothes immigration officers who are gathering intelligence on all irregular migration routes.
‘We are not saying no to migration, but we are saying no to irregular migration. And it has to stop,’ he emphasised.
The Commissioner of the West Coast Region, Mariama Nyang, said the Operation will bring together the GID, the police and the Gambia Navy.
She promised the operation would conduct constant patrols because the loss of the recent boat tragedy has ‘hit’ the country hard. She added that they will leave no place for irregular migrants to use because the country is losing a whole generation. She informed the press that the patrols would be informed by the intelligence gathered by their officers.
She further added that the operation zero departure will cover all areas in the country, from Kartong to Koina.