Returnees Want to Deal Directly With EU on Reintegration Progamme

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By Nelson Manneh

Gambians, who were recently deported from Europe, say they want to work directly with the European Union on their reintegration programme, because they have not benefitted from their rehabilitation funds which were handed over to the Government. The returnees complained that there are other nationals in Europe whose Governments refused to sign any deportation agreement with the EU and are not experiencing any form of deportation.

“Our government wants us to come back home and continue to suffer. We are now here, but we want them to allow us to deal with the EU on our reintegration programmes. The government should not deprive us the funds that come to the country in our name,” Omar Gassama, President of the Network of Reintegration and Empowerment for Returnees said. Gassama said they are not criminals and are not deported because they committed crimes.

“We are victims of this condition because our government has neglected us. They sign the deportation deal without any proper consultation. Some of us spent more than five years in Germany, working and supporting our families and relatives here. But today, we are here struggling for our survival,” Gassama lamented. The President of the Network of Reintegration and Empowerment for Returnees said many more Gambians will be returned to The Gambia sooner than later and the Government will not do anything for them. Mr. Gassama said he was arrested by the German Police whilst on his way to work. That he was thrown in a vehicle and driven straight to the airport.

“The whole process was done at night. The deportation does not only affect those without documents. I know some people who were deported with their documents, whilst some were in their reintegration process,” he said, and added the deportation is now in full swing, and many were deported without any genuine reason.

“Now that we are home as the Government wishes, we want them to allow us to deal with the EU directly so that we can utilise our reintegration funds so that we can use the funds provided for us to transform our lives and not turn to criminal acts to survive. We want to be useful to our families and the nation at large” he said. Gassama said most of the deportees are skilled, and that all they need is financial support in order to start their own projects.

“We do not want the government to directly receive funds on our behalf. We have now come together in the form of a network to help each other,” he said; knowing that if deportees are not reintegrated they will turn to criminals. He said they are out of work and all they need is support.

“We want our Mayors and Chairpersons to know that we are back and ready to work with them in all aspects of life. We want to be useful in society,” Gassama concludes.

Gambians, who have been recently deported from Europe and other western countries from 2017 up to date, have described their forceful return to the Gambia as illegal. The returnees who have now organised themselves as a network called: “Network for Reintegration and Empowerment of Returnees”, said the main objective of their network is to help all returnees to venture in to skills development, entrepreneurship and businesses, job placement and career support, financial literacy, microfinance, psychological and social support, advocacy and policy engagement. The returnees alleged that in 2017, the Government of the Gambia signed a deportation agreement with the European Union and that is why the EU is frequently deporting Gambians from Europe.

Ba Samba Drammeh, the Executive Director of the network said the Gambia is a poor country and that is why her sons and daughters venture in risky journeys to seek greener pasture.

“There is no family in the Gambia that does not have a relative abroad. The source of survival for many households in the Gambia is from a family member abroad,” he said. Mr Drammeh said there are more than sixty-five thousand undocumented Gambians in Europe alone and they are all striving hard to support their relatives and families back home.

“The government is overlooking the illegal deportation of Gambians and they are not giving them any form of support. Most of the Gambians deported are from Germany and we are aware of the funds coming into the country in the name of returnees, which is not reaching us as the affected persons,” he said. He added there are some Gambians who are deported and are ashamed of joining their families because of the trauma that awaits them.

“Some of these people are living with their friends and the government is not doing anything to reconcile them with their families or reintegrate them,” he said. Mr Drammeh said there is no deportation in the world without any reintegration program, and alleges that the government took money from the European Union in the name of reintegrating returnees which has never happened.

“The returnees are not benefiting from these funds, and the government is not working towards providing jobs to returnees because there are no job opportunities in the country,” he lamented.