EU ambassador and head of European Mission to The Gambia, Atilas Lajo, has
acknowledged that it is true that there are thousands of Gambian migrants who
are currently living in European shores and are on the verge of being deported.
However, he made it clear that the repatriation would be those migrants who have exhausted all the means to be legally staying in individual European countries which the EU as an entity has no power over.
“Those who exhausted their legal possibilities for seeking asylum, or legalising their status in member status; and if they exhausted all these possibilities those migrants are going to be returned,” he said. “This is a matter of principle; this is a part of respect for the rule of law, no country wishes to have illegal migrants on its territory, these are also international obligations.”
Notwithstanding, he said the EU and The Gambia are discussing on the modalities to better manage the migration issue as well as return and reintegration efforts.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday at EU’s annual meeting with journalist, the EU head of mission to the Gambia insisted that European Union has not signed any deal with the government of The Gambia to repatriate Gambian migrants.
It is widely speculated that the government of the Gambia and its partners the EU included have signed agreements to have Gambian migrants repatriated home.
He refuted claims that such a deal ever took place between the two parties:
“The funding sources of the overall development assistance are more targeted to other fields than migration itself.
“I do believe that this is another indication that there was no such deal; such pre-condition may down by the European Union towards the newly elected democratic government of the country as a pre-condition for EU development assistance,” he said.
He went on to say that the condition lay before the Gambia government has nothing to do with repatriation of migrants, noting that is not their area of focus.
“The condition is that Gambia remains on the democratic path. Should The Gambia divert from the democratic path, which I don’t think is going to be the case because Gambia has decided. Should that happens, fair to be speaking yes, trust me EU funding will dry out as like it did under Jammeh’s time.”