The Chronicle Gambia

Gambia’s Honorary Consul Engages German Politicians amid Fear of Mass Deportation

In the midst of fear and anxiety of a large section of Gambian migrants in Germany who await deportation, The Gambia’s honorary consul in Stuttgart, South of Germany said, they are engaging the politicians to forgo the plan and explore other integration means.

The European country has already deported 144 Gambians in 2018. According to European Stability Initiative (ESA), 10,000 Gambians living in the German State of Baden-Württemberg are likely to be liable to deportation while 2,600 risked immediate deportation. 

On the heels of the burning subject, The Chronicle caught up with Dr. Georg Bouche, the country’s honorary consul in Germany, during his recent visit to Banjul regarding his possible role in the saga. 

“I was sort of informed about it [the deportation plan], but not about the date or anything. I got contacted by the German State and they said to me that we will be taking people back,” he told The Chronicle.

According to him, the process is not transparent because it lacks clarity in the manner it’s to be done.

“In the beginning, they only spoke about people who have sort of committed a crime and later they said they took people out of jobs. So, it’s not really transparent what’s going on.”

“But the overall issue is the attitude of the German government and that’s to say we [they] can only accept people with these sorts of problems and they see Gambia as safe,” he said.

     Dr. Georg Bouche Gambia’s Honorary Consul in Germany

As a result, a lot of immigrants who fled the country during dictatorship have been having their asylum applications rejected after the change of government in 2016. He said this is because the German government is relying on its law that states that if the country is considered a safe country there is no need for such people to seek asylum. 

“Germany says Jammeh is not here anymore and they consider Gambia as a safe country so they say, they can lift some people back because there is no need to seek asylum.”

However, he said the recent visit to Germany by the former Gambian Interior Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty, has expanded the debate on the subject line in Germany who clearly pointed out that The Gambia is not ready to take the migrants back. He said Fatty also made a point that as a transitional government, ECOMIG forces are still in the country which is an indicator that all is not set in the country. 

“So, there are questions arising and the only problem is the German law which says no need to seek asylum because you are safe and sound in The Gambia…It’s a very complicated issue,” he said. 

In August 2019, two refugee support groups namely, 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), wrote to President Adama Barrow and Mariam Denton, the Speaker of the National Assembly to call their attention to the plights of Gambian refugees. The groups disputed the claim of the German government that it’s only deporting those found in conflict with the law. 

Considering the skyrocketing rate of youth unemployment, a weak economy and a struggling recovery from dictatorship while the repatriated youths from Libya remain without job placements, he believes that the German government should accommodate migrants instead of deporting them.

“There are very good things going on in Germany concerning Gambians who are doing apprenticeship. The law is about to change, that if somebody starts the apprenticeship the person can stay on. But in general, the thing is complicated. I always compare this little bit with the United States’ Green Card as many people dream to go there because the US has the Green Card system. I think Germany is just afraid,” he told The Chronicle.

African migrants in Europe, photo credit Guardian

The diplomat is of the belief that Gambians are needed in Germany. “We need Gambians because we lack young people in Germany and recently the Germany Health Minister went to Mexico to look for workers who would like to come to Germany to take care of the elderly. But we have Gambians who are skilled in this and can do that perfectly.”

“So, we are in constant contact with politicians as you know it’s not easy to convince a politician, especially when we are talking about a global issue like migration that’s taking place in all of Europe. It’s not the easiest task to convince politicians,” Dr. Georg stated. 

“I think what people don’t understand is that nobody leaves his or her country voluntarily. You will never leave your country and your family behind and go somewhere. I think it’s inhumane when you see and read what is going on in the Mediterranean Sea and Libya. The whole issue is inhumane. I feel very sad when young people come to other countries in Europe and they don’t have possibilities there either,” he said.

“I feel very sorry for Gambians who came through this very long journey to Germany and don’t really find it prospective there. It’s a dreadful situation.” 

He suggested the need for the creation of more opportunities in Gambia that can attract youths to stay.

The European Stability Initiative has introduced ‘The Gambia Plan’ that is seeking the Gambian government’s blessing to advocate for a win-win situation of both countries to allow migrants to stay in Libya while not further accepting any new arrivals. 

As an honorary Consul in Stuttgart who is responsible for The Gambia and Gambians’ affairs in Baden-Wurttemberg and Munich, he describes his voluntary responsibility as a custodian of contacts of Gambians in Germany. 

His office is under the supervision of Gambia’s consulate in Brussels which is also in charge of seven other European countries excluding Paris and London where the country has functioning embassies. 

“There are inquiries everyday mainly about passport issues, about birth certificates and also many people are also concerned about Gambians getting married to Germans and having their babies getting officially registered. There are also some sad issues like Gambians passing away in Germany to bring corpses back home,” he told The Chronicle.

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