While rumors of a purported isolation of Dr Isatou Touray from public affairs went viral in Banjul on Tuesday, The Chronicle reliably learnt that the Vice president was in Bern, Switzerland, leading a Gambian delegation to sign an agreement on migration. The agreement allows Switzerland to influence The Gambia’s policy on migration, at least with regards to Gambians living in the Swiss soil.
From all indications, the agreement for which Dr Touray flew to Bern was already approved by the Federal Council of Switzerland on 7th October 2020.
Officially, “It opens up new opportunities for cooperation between Switzerland and the Republic of The Gambia in the field of migration“.
But of course, the cosmetic diplomatic language cannot shade the fact that such an agreement is essentially meant to curb the flow of Gambian would-be migrants leaving home for Switzerland, in search of a greener pasture.
This is partly highlighted in the press release issued by the Swiss Federal Council. “Many Gambian citizens are leaving their country for other countries in the region, Europe or the United States. Gambian nationals account for a significant proportion of migrants crossing the Mediterranean each year to reach the Italian or Spanish coasts. After a peak in 2016, the number of asylum applications from Gambian nationals in Switzerland has since fallen sharply“, the release says.
One main characteristic of the document signed by Dr isatou Touray for President Adama Barrow’s government is that The Gambia accepts to use its diplomatic mission in Switzerland to help the Swiss authorities go after undesired Gambian asylum seekers in that European country.
The Swiss government press release reads “Operational cooperation with The Gambia over returning citizens generally works well. The agreement covers issues relating to the practical organisation of returnees, such as identification and the issuing of replacement documents“.
As it is clearly stated in this passage, The Gambia Government seems to have a good track record of fully collaborating with European countries aiming to deport undesired Gambians in the European soil.
Formalizing ‘hearings in Gambian embassies’ to speed up the deportation of Gambians
The Swiss scheme to which the Barrow Administration has now adhered to with the signature of Dr Isatou Touray is already in motion between The Gambia and Germany. Between 2019 and 2020, the German government has officially counted 146 Gambians sent to the Gambian consulates in Berlin, Cologne and Stuttgart for “embassy hearings” that ended speeding up their deportation to The Gambia.
As those Gambians, like other African nationals live in Germany without a legal status, largely because their nationality can’t be determined, the German government uses the embassy and consulates of The Gambia in Germany to question them for potential deportation.
The trick is simple. Asylum seekers must attend hearings at one of the consulates to prove their Gambian identity and nationality. Upon rejection of their asylum applications by the German authorities, these Gambians with duly issued Gambian documents, are automatically deported to Banjul.
Over the past two years, German officials have accused the embassies of African nations of being slow to issue the necessary documents that would permit deportations. A Gambian diplomat The Chronicle spoke to privately said that the German government exerts excessive pressure on The Gambia to comply.
In the same vein, Dr Isatou Touray and her Swiss counterparts have also signed an aviation services agreement said to allow “airlines to offer passengers and shipping companies competitive prices and services on open markets, while preserving strict safety standards“.