By Kebba Jeffang
Mai Ahmad Fatty, the minister of interior said 140 Gambians have been repatriated to Banjul voluntarily in the early hours of Friday morning, 10th March.
He said the returnees requested the Gambia government to help them bring them home as they could not bear their living condition in the North African war torn country. He said their repatriation was facilitated by the government with support from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Mr fatty who was speaking on Friday to journalists at Kairaba Beach Hotel said “we have been negotiating with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) because we have received concerns on the request of our citizens in Libya those who embarked on irregular migration which we call the ‘back way.’”
He disclosed that about 1000 Gambians in Libya are stranded in Tripoli and many of them want to come home. He stated that most of them are victims of crime and they have no money, food or proper shelter and their living condition is abominable.
“The responsibility of the government is to look after its citizens whether they are at home or abroad. When my ministry got into the picture I accelerated negotiations with IOM in order to repatriate those Gambians who are stranded in Libya voluntarily,” he said.
He continued: “We have registered 460 Gambians in Libya who are living in abominable conditions and would like to return home because they can no longer proceed. Among this 460, I am glad to report that 140 people have returned around 1am this morning in Banjul. We are hoping that the 460 Gambians who registered to voluntarily return home will all be repatriated working in partnership with IOM.”
The interior minister added that the 140 repatriated Gambians were all processed by joint security forces including the immigration, the police and the intelligence service and they were provided with psychological counselling for a period of 4 to 6 hours.
“As I speak to you today they are returning to their families, many of them in the Kombo area. Through our partnership and cooperation with the IOM, each of those 140 Gambians were also given D2,600 to facilitate their transport logistic back to their homes. That is something that we feel very proud of because it is our responsibility to support our citizens in distress whether at home or abroad. And we will continue to do that with all Gambians where ever they may be. We will also expedite the facilitation of travel documents to them which we had done in this particular instance,” he said
He said there is no recognized government in Libya at the moment, adding they are fighting each other and the citizens are at risk there. He assured Gambians in the Diaspora not to listen to people who will say the immigration will be coming for them in Europe. He said for the Gambians who have committed crimes in foreign countries (in prisons or have served their terms) and are supposed to be returning home it is the judicial process that will be sending them home and not the Gambia government.
He said if any one commits crime or violates immigration laws of other countries, The Gambia cannot intervene because The Gambia has similar laws. However, he said if they have evidence such a case hasn’t undergone impartial judicial process they will use their diplomatic services in favour of such Gambians. He said there will be immigration officers in most of the Gambian embassies to make the work easier for them.