The Chairman of European Stability Initiative (ESI), Gerald Knaus has presented an idea dubbed ‘The Gambia Plan’ to authorities in Banjul describing it ‘a win-win cooperation’ on migration issues between Gambia and Germany which suggested that all Gambian migrants in Germany be given legal status except those convicted of serious crimes. On the other hand, it will give Germany the opportunity to create cultural institutes in Banjul to facilitate learning the German language.
Shortly after holding talks with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly in Banjul on Friday, Gerald told journalists in a press conference that he also discussed his plan with authorities in Germany. According to him, the idea has garnered a lot of popularity even in European societies including the western media as well as in The Gambia.
‘The Gambia Plan’ was introduced on the heels of the fear of deportation of several Gambians from Germany despite the imposition of moratorium. Germany had already deported 144 Gambians in 2018, according to ESI data.
With thousands of paperless Gambian migrants in Germany, Gerald says it’s a fantasy to think that such a number could be deported.
“This creates an atmosphere of fear. There is no hope and there are thousands of Gambians who risked everything in their possession. This is a crazy situation and something needs to be done,” he told journalists on Friday.
He said the popular idea in Germany and other European countries is deport by force those who do not have a right to stay which makes it a dominant issue in diplomacy between the two countries.
“But it’s crazy. It will not work and it is impossible. Look at the numbers, to begin with. The whole of Germany deported 21, 000 people – these are people put on planes to be taken to their home countries.”
Out of this amount, he said 8 percent was deported to Africa including 193 people to Nigeria, 144 to The Gambia.
He stated that: “You need to understand the interest of the country of origin. The idea that thousands of people will be deported is such a threat to hundreds of thousands of relatives who live here, and invested so much hope that no government in The Gambia will be able to agree to that. Also, The Gambia is not the only country in Africa who does it, so it’s not realistic,” he said of the deportation policy.
Explaining his plan which he named as ‘The Gambia Plan,’ Gerald recalled the suggestion he made to the Prime Minister and his deputy of Baden-Wuerttemberg, a constituent in Germany which accommodates majority of Gambian migrants.
“…the idea is to say, let’s be realistic, if more Gambians have to stay in Germany, Germany has no choice but interest to offer them the chance to work. So Germany should work on legal status of all Gambians except those ones that are convicted of serious crimes which is a very small minority. People should be allowed to register, be allowed to learn the language, and be allowed to work,” he said.
In return, he stated that The Gambia government will take the responsibility to discouraging further, the future irregular arrivals.
On the German side, Gerald said the European country should offer two things immediately which include Germany recognizes The Gambia as an important partner and becomes one of its top priorities for development aid. He also indicated that Germany should provide legal migration possibilities in the form of increasing scholarship packages for young Gambians.
“Actually the moment you give up the idea, which is a fantasy that thousands of people will be returned, you will realize that one of the most important Gambian diaspora for the next generation will be in Germany,” he said.
“You will realize that this can be a bridge between the two countries. And then you realized that there is no certified Germany teacher here and you need a cultural institute in The Gambia where people can study German. You actually need a stronger diplomatic presence. You need option for legal migration. Now if all of these sounds like a fantasy, it’s not,” he told reporters.
Despite the positive reactions on the plan, it remains without a breakthrough for now. However, the ESI Chairman is confident that his idea will be a solution to the longstanding menace of irregular migration.
Fortnight ago, more than sixty young Gambians including at least 11 women died at sea when the Spain-bound boat capsized off the Mauritania coast. According to ESI, more than 1000 Gambians have drowned as they attempted to enter Europe in recent years through both Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Island.