A week after 20 Nigerians were deported to their home country, refugee support groups in Germany have raised alarm that at least 2,400 Gambian refugees in the country were slated deportation.
The groups, Flüchtlingsrat Baden-Württemberg (Refugee Council Baden-Württemberg), a non-profit organization that advises refugees and advocates for their rights, and the Gambia Helfernetz (Gambia Helpers Network), have written to Gambian President Adama Barrow and Mrs Mariam Denton, the Speaker of the country’s National Assembly, to call their attention to the plight of the Gambian refugees.
In the letter, the groups said the German authorities had deported more than 100 Gambian refugees between November 2018 and March 2019, and they raised concern that “German politicians are determined to send back at least another 2400 Gambians.”
“This does not mean that only criminals will be deported to The Gambia, as it is wrongly assumed and claimed. People who have been living in Germany for several years, have a steady job, earn their own living and pay taxes to the German state are also deported,” the groups said.
“They learned the difficult German language and went to schools. They do good work in German companies, successfully play in German football clubs, get involved in sports and cultural clubs and have German friends. Most of them did not get into conflict with the law and were not to be blamed for anything.”
The groups said even after the Gambian government had placed moratorium on the deportation of Gambian migrants following the last mass repatriation of Gambian refugees from Germany through chartered flights, at least 12 people have been reportedly deported to The Gambia through other means.
“Many of these Gambians were picked up by the police from the factories where they worked, and schools, put on a plane and deported to The Gambia. Some of these people had to leave their children behind in Germany. Some were about to get married.”
According to the groups, the deportations have instilled fear in Gambians living in Germany.
“The acceleration of deportations in recent months has led many Gambians in Germany to live in fear. This is because it can affect anyone, and no one knows who is next. Some go into hiding in order not to be deported, and sometimes we don’t know whether they are well. Even the companies that employ Gambians live with the fear that a Gambian employee may not come to work the next day or can even be arrested in the company like a criminal and be deported back to the Gambia.”
The groups warned that the arrival of a large number of “hopeless refugees” could endanger “social peace” in The Gambia.
Early this year, the Gambian government announced a moratorium on involuntary repatriation of Gambian migrants from EU member states, particularly Germany. A credible source at the Foreign Ministry at the time told The Chronicle, a Gambian newspaper, that the moratorium would be imposed until the government renegotiates the modalities of the repatriation of Gambians with its partners. The content of the initial negotiation between the government and its EU partners has not been disclosed to the public.
Gambian migrants have been regularly deported back home in groups from EU countries including Germany and Italy in recent months, sparking public anger and outcry. There have been rumors and speculations that the government had signed a deportation agreement with these countries, an allegation the authorities have always denied.