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Spain to kick-start Blue Sahel project for Gambia, Africa

Mar 10, 2016, 6:46 PM | Article By: Njie Baldeh

The Spanish government has planned to kick-start another project called the Blue Sahel project to help West African countries to curtail irregular immigration and illegal trafficking.

Speaking in an interview with The Point on Wednesday at her office, Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Spain, Laura Mayoral Aguilera, said the project which will kick-start in May 2016 and run through May 2019, includes The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Guinea Conakry, Guinea-Bissau and other countries in the sub-region.

According to her, the project will also create cross border patrols, as well as conduct training courses on irregular immigration, for the Gambian navy, in collaboration with the Gambia government through the Ministry of the Interior.

She recalled that in 2009 an agreement was signed between the governments of Spain and The Gambia to roll out a project called Sea Horse project, which was funded by the European Union and the Spanish government.

In this project, Spain collaborated with The Gambia and with other countries in the sub-region such as Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Guinea-Bissau to control smuggling and human trafficking, which is one of the main problems related to the back way, said Chargé d’Affaires Laura Mayoral Aguilera.

Aguilera also commented on the back-way syndrome, saying this general trend of going to Europe illegally, which involves youths from The Gambia and neighbouring countries, is a serious cause for concern to which a solution of concerted efforts is needed.

According to a recent report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), arrivals of migrants to Italy in the first weeks of this year “have come mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, especially Nigeria and The Gambia”.

“Nigerians and Gambians accounted for around one third of the 5,273 migrants who arrived in Italy during January 2016,” the report stated.

The IOM report, which covered January to March 2016, stated that compared with 2015, the figures of illegal migrants to Europe through the Mediterranean has increased a lot.

The report stated that The Gambia, Nigeria Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Mali are some of the countries from where many immigrants are leaving for Europe.

From January to March 2015, about 51 immigrants left The Gambia for Italy; and in the same period between January and March 2016 about 676 people travelled through the back-way to Italy from The Gambia, report stated.

“These are people who have arrived in Italy, but we don’t know how many people have left because, unfortunately, there some people who are dying on the way because of the worst condition of the journey and also because of some fatality in the sea, which has caused many causalities,” the Spanish Chargé d’Affaires said.

“Migrants and refugees are continuing to arrive in the Greek islands from Turkey, despite the presence of NATO vessels newly-deployed to thwart smugglers, the IOM report stated, adding: “Total arrivals in Greece and Italy have now reached an estimated 141,141 in 2016.”

It said an estimated 444 immigrants have so far lost their lives this year.