A group of agitated Gambian youths deported from Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Libya, today converged at the People`s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) party bureau in Churchill’s Town to express their frustrations and ‘disappointments’ against the Government of The Gambia.
The youths explained the hardship they endured to travel across the Sahara Desert and the perilous Mediterranean Sea into Europe for jobs and protection, only to find themselves in detention centers. And finally faces deportation after investing their entire resources in such costly journeys including selling their family lands.
The 24 returnees’ representatives of over 160 returnees expressed dissatisfaction on the side of The Gambia Government contribution to their forceful deportation by accepting European Union conditional Aid packages. This they said Barrow`s administration ‘betrayed’ them and their families they were out to help.
According to the group leader, their initial plan of action was to go the streets against the Coalition Government, which the Serrekunda NAM Halifa Sallah intervened for them to take a ‘dialogue approach’.
Mustapha Sallah a returnee from Sweden who claimed to have spoken to President Barrow and Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe on telephone from a Swedish detention centre said President Barrow`s response to him was that it is not a ‘big deal’ to deport him and cited that him (President Barrow) was once deported from Germany.
And, added that Foreign Minister Darboe told him that government to government dealings cannot be rushed and did not do much to rescue him from deportation. On The Gambia Government claim that (the migrants) opted in for voluntary return, Mustapha said:
“We didn’t ask to be returned as said by them; we were forced to return through this government.
“And the worst part of all, after arriving by air on 4th April, we were not received by any government official only PIU and immigration officers were searching us and asked whether we have some military training.
“We were put in three buses to KMC, West Coast Region and Banjul through Senegambia. Some of us are from the upper side of the country and have not been in this country for 5 to 6years. We lost call contacts. They dropped us all in one area.”
The Gambia Government through the European Union (EU) financial support and the International Trade Centre (ITC) launched Youth Employment Project (YEP) worth 11 million Euros in a ceremony held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel on Thursday 9th February 2016.
For the returnees, this package signed by the Gambia Government was ‘selling’ them for money and depriving them the opportunity for residency in Europe to be able to help their families and contributes to the country`s GDP through foreign remittance.
“For me personally, I was in contact with President Mr. Adama Barrow when I was in detention and I learnt about the deportation issue, he responded to me that he was once deported from Germany.
“The only person who was giving us courage was Halifa sallah. We want to demonstrate, we inform Halifa he said ‘no that’s not the best idea’, and he counseled us and inform us about a package of 11 million Euros.
“We are warning the government to do something about us, because they force us to come. We have seen so many things on the ‘backway’, so we are not afraid for anything and we are ready.”
Another returnee said they were ‘sold’ by their own government for money. He added that it is because of Halifa Sallah that’s why they are still calm, but if anything is not done about them, they will act seriously.
Alieu Ceesay another returnee said before the government think about accepting their return, they should have first provided employment opportunities, to engage them in a meaningful way. He said when the rest of their colleagues awaiting deportation arrive; they will put the government to task, to provide employment for them. And, added ‘they forced us to come, not the Italian or Libyan governments or us.’
Returnees from Libya also expressed their disappointment with the present Government for distancing themselves from them and claiming that they (the returnees) opted to return on their own will.
They complained that they were forced to return and the Government promised to help them integrate into society, but instead have forgotten them. They said that they intend to stage a demonstration to put the Government to task, but according to them Halifa intervened and asked them to initiate a dialogue instead.