Hundreds of Gambians have organized a protest march against a wave of deportations from European Union countries.
The demonstrators had gathered at the Westfield Youth Monument in Serrekunda to voice their anger and frustration over the decision by Germany and other countries to return Gambian migrants to the country.
In recent weeks, Gambians have watched with stupefaction and outrage as the migrants, many of them from Germany were flown to the country ‘in large numbers’.
Many had questioned the role of the Gambian government in the deportations which were mainly from Germany.
Wearing t-shirts and holding placards with slogans critical of the move, the protesters chanted ‘no to deportation’.
Alieu Ceesay, a 27-year-old teacher said he was joining the protest movement out of anger over the alleged mistreatment of the deportees.
“I was there at the airport the other day when a flight loaded with deportees landed with deportees. They all looked dejected and desperate because they arrived back with just plastic bags” Ceesay said.
He lamented that “for migrants who risked their lives and spent everything they ever owned just to reach Europe and help their families out of poverty, it was disheartening to see them being treated like this”.
He added: “They are not supposed to be treated like criminals”.
Lamin Sarr alias Laus demanded that the government look into the welfare of the returnees who are citizens of the country.
“What is happening to Gambian migrants wouldn’t happen to the citizens of other countries in the sub-region. While other countries are looking after the interest of their citizens, our government does not seem to care what’s happening to our brothers and sisters in Europe. I want to send a clear message to the authorities that they are either with the citizens or against them” Laus suggested.
The government has come under heavy criticism over the regular deportations.
Anti-deportation activists accused the authorities of signing dodgy deals with the European Union for Gambians to be deported from member countries, an accusation the government has strenuously denied.
Ida Faal, a young protester at Westfield has challenged the government to do more than trying hard to convince Gambians that no such deal was signed.
“Gambians are not fools. These government people think we are stupid but we are not. We are tired of their lies and manipulation. All we’ve been hearing from them is that ‘there was no deal’. If there was no deal signed, why is the EU still deporting our people in large numbers and regularly? Something is dodgy somewhere and it’s the responsibility of our government to prove otherwise,” she said.
The protest which was restricted to the square accommodating the Youth Monument by the police, was the first such event so far this year.
According to the organizers, more protests would be organized to bring pressure to bear on the authorities.
Among their demands was for the government to place a moratorium on deportations until the socio-economic needs for those already returned are addressed.