By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
On Tuesday 5th September 2023, both The Gambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister and the Minister for Defence withdrew their Bills from Parliament cutting the National Assembly’s business shorter than expected. During his motion to withdraw, Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Mamadou Tangara stated “Hon Speaker, I want to inform this August Assembly that my Ministry did not seek for the ratification of The Gambia-Swiss Agreement. The Office of the Clerk requested from my Ministry signed agreements relating to immigration which was shared following which we received an agenda with three items to be ratified including this agreement”.
However, our medium has obtained a prepared speech which indicates that the Foreign Affairs Ministry actually prepared a speech to move a motion for the ratification of The Gambia-Swiss agreement. Completely contradicting the Foreign Affairs Minister’s claims. After Minister Tangara’s motion to withdraw the Speaker of the House Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta, sought further clarification from him after which the motion was eventually seconded and voted in favour by the majority of the House.
After the Speaker confirmed the withdrawal the Minister for Foreign Affairs made a request to deliberate on the Best Practice Agreement between The Gambia and the European Union. Following this request, National Assembly members started raising their tags prompting the Speaker to make this explanation.
“Earlier in my statement I told you that the Office of the Clerk had included ratification by this Parliament and some other documents which initially was meant for your consumption based on your request. But the office of the Clerk thought it was sent for ratification, only when they read the letter, they came to realise that it was for you and it was circulated. I think it’s on those bases, those circulated documents it’s what the Hon Minister wants to make certain information to you”.
Hon Yahya Menteng Sanyang of Latrikunda and other members raised up their tags with the former raising a query if Parliamentary debate will be allowed on the Foreign Minister’s presentation. The Speaker soon responded by saying, “What is happening is a document has been put on the record mistakenly by us, that’s the Office of the Clerk and that document is withdrawn, it’s not meant for ratification”. Instead, Speaker Jatta noted that the Minister wanted to shed light on the document which he believes is a positive move. Soon after Minister Tangara was given the floor he was interrupted by similar concerns from Hon Muhammed Kanteh of Busumbala who was also brushed aside by the Speaker.
Given the source of the information received by this medium, it’s clear that the Foreign Affairs Minister sent a speech indicating his intention to seek ratification from Parliament. In fact, prior to the withdrawal, our medium was reliably informed that Members from the Majority side of the House were being lobbied to support the ratification of The Gambia-Swiss Migration Agreement.
You can access a copy of The Gambia-Swiss Migration Agreement here. It’s important to note that the Agreement has been withdrawn from Parliament but because it was provided to Parliament our medium was able to access a copy of the Agreement through an information request. This medium was also able to receive a copy of the Foreign Affairs Minister’s speech which raises significant doubt on his claim that he only sent the documents for notification.
Below is the speech titled “Motion, Agreement between the Government of The Gambia and the Swiss Federal Council on Cooperation in Migration Matters”.
I move that this August Assembly consider and ratify the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of The Gambia and the Swiss Federal Council on cooperation in Migration Matters. This Agreement, stemming from the dialogue on migration matters initiated in May 2018, aims to address the current status of the bilateral cooperation in the field of migration between Swiss and The Gambia. It seeks to define the cooperation between the two countries in the management of migration and at the same time promote a mutually [beneficial] partnership in the best interest of both countries.
This agreement was signed in the spirit of mutual trust and it aims to address migration issues in a broad and multidimensional approach.
Honourable Speaker, the Republic of Th: Gambia has put the management of migration as a topmost priority given the number of Gambians leaving the country and those that are returning prompting the need for the government to act in the principle of interest in signing a cooperation agreement that promotes the welfare of Gambians. This agreement is an important vehicle to protect our citizens living in Switzerland as we are living in a global context characterized by several cases of Gambians being mistreated abroad.
Honourable Speaker, recognizing that in an era of new trends in migration patterns, The Gambia must articulate and implement migration cooperation agreements capable of addressing irregular migration flows and to put up effective mechanisms to manage it.
Honourable Speaker, one of the core fundamental principle of this agreement is the principle of reciprocity to deepen and expand dialogue and cooperation in the field of migration, identify opportunities offered therein and find constructive solutions to the challenges of irregular migration and at the same time recognizing that the effective protection of the rights of migrants is one of the main components of migration management, especially the strict application of the relevant provisions of international human rights instruments;
The Agreement also recognizes that the control and management of irregular migration and the return of persons should not be addressed only from the security angle, but should also be based on the integration of migration in development strategies; driven by the desire to apply, in the interest of migrants and in the common interest, the rules governing the movement and stay of persons between the two countries.
The two sides held two expert meetings since the signing of the Agreement and the third (34) expert meeting will be held on 12″ October 2023 in Banjul.
Honourable Speaker, this agreement will benefit The Gambia in the following:
- Support from Switzerland in the areas of institutional capacity building and training for the stakeholders in migration management especially The Gambia Immigration Department, Police, Ministry of Interior and National Coordination Mechanism on Migration;
- Support for the Security Sector Reform through DCAF; enhancing overall security and stability
- Support for Diaspora Engagement and Development; Swiss assistance will aid in engaging and developing our diaspora, contributing to national development efforts
- Support for Construction of Prisons in Mile II and The Gambia Immigration Headquarters;
- Development of local capacities and structures related to challenges with reintegration, relating to our desire to find support for the construction of a multipurpose migrant center to facilitate the reintegration of returnees;
- Commitment to initiate contacts with potential partners to identify practical measures to support The Gambia in the above-mentioned areas.
Honourable Speaker, I beg to move”
Our next expose will shed more light on the Best Practice Document between The Gambia and the European Union.