The debate on whether the Gambia government can do something about the humiliating deportations of Gambians from the US and other parts of the world continue to intensify. People will spin the debate in one way or the other towards their own personal, political and or other views. That’s fine, people can say what their opinions are and how they see things. But let’s get the facts straight. The government agreed to removing visa restrictions on certain government travels on family members of government officials in lieu of accepting 2,000 plus Gambians being deported to the Gambia by the embassy issuing documents. What many of us are asking about is what has the Gambia government negotiated for those being returned apart from the visa restrictions? If there was anything else negotiated or demanded by the Gambia government, the people needs to know. This message can be sent through a press conference or a press release or televised address to the nation. Has the government done this yet? Are they planning on doing it? Why the wait if citizens are panicking and families are being shattered?
Here are a few things the government should have negotiated upon accepting the deportation of Gambians. The new government in Gambia is still in transition and therefore is not economically and politically stable. The government should have asked for an economic package from the US government to help mitigate the economic and psychological impact of separating families. They could have demanded a $20 million dollars or some economic package to help the government address the situation. Put that up as a request if not a condition for you to accept thousands of your citizens from the US. Make a strong case that deporting all these people could lead to political instability in the streets and or some of these people can be radicalized into doing other stuff. Make a strong case for the Gambian people who are being separated from their families.
The Gambian Embassy can demand and make sure that they find out about the condition of every citizen who is in deportation proceedings. Where do they live, do they have families, Under what conditions are they being detained or removed. Do they have legal representation and their civil rights are not being violated? Have they exhausted the legal process to ensure their cases are treated fairly. The embassy can find out where are these Gambians being detained; they can get in touch with families to ensure that if they have mortgages they are giving time to sell off their homes, withdraw their 401Ks and bank accounts and put their children who may be American citizens in proper legal custody. Is this too much to ask from the Gambia government and Embassy?
The Gambian people expect their government to be there for them. The American government stands for even a single citizen of theirs who is detained or being removed from another country. Even if a US citizen dies in the custody of another government, their government makes sure proper procedures are followed and the rights of their citizens are respected. Why couldn’t the Gambia government do the same?
The Barrow government should and must make a strong case to the United States government that our citizens are not savages; we are not economic dependence. Gambians do not jump the fence to get to the US. We are given visas to come to the United States through a thorough interview and betting process. Gambians are among the most educated immigrants in the United States. When our people come here they get jobs, they go to college, they build businesses. They become professionals and teach in universities, become doctors, nurses, engineers and IT professionals. Gambians are a net positive to the United States and the US government must hear that. We build strong communities and ensure that our children go to school and not become part of street gangs. Gambians are hard working and law abiding citizens. It is the US immigration system that criminalizes our citizens. The Gambia government can reference statistics and make a strong case about Gambians in the United States. If Gambians walk away from Nursing homes, hospitals, IT companies, factories, universities etc this country will be affected in one way or another. The government has a duty to make this case to US that will win them an economic package to help mitigate the painful experience of deportation.
The hard fact remains that the Gambian government has the moral responsibility to ensure that our citizens are not treated like slaves. No Gambian citizen who is not a criminal should be put in chains and deported to the Gambian like our ancestors were chained to be brought to the United States. There is absolutely no reason why the Gambia government cannot stand up and demand these things for our citizens.
We therefore ask the foreign ministry in collaboration with the Gambian Embassy in the US to immediately convene a press conference to reassure Gambians that their government is there for them. That they have not accepted any economic package or payout in lieu of Gambians being deported to the Gambia. The government must take proactive measures to ease fears that is gripping our citizens across the United States. A strong case can and must be made on behalf of Gambians on how they are being treated by the US government. Yes, Gambia government may not be able to stop the deportations, but certainly they can delay issuing documents until they can find out about the status of every person being deported. They certainly can demand an economic package for Gambians being deported because the government cannot accommodate all these citizens. We reecho that the Gambia government has the responsibility to address the situation as soon as possible.
Story filed by Demba Baldeh Associate Editor