New German Immigration Law Offers Gambian Migrants Reprieve
By Momodou Justice Darboe
Ansu is a 26-year-old rejected Gambian asylum seeker who resides in a group accommodation in the Baden-wurttemberg city of Ulm in south-west Germany. For the past two months or so, he never ventured to pass a night in his room at the refugee shelter because he received a letter obliging him to meet Gambian officials in Germany for identification purposes.
“When I read the letter, I knew instinctively that I was sitting on a ticking time bomb and must act forthwith,” he recalled with a hint of fear in his voice.
” I packed of my belongings that I was able to and left.”
Like Ansu, hundreds of rejected Gambian asylum seekers had found themselves nomading in a land that they purportedly come to seek sanctuary.
“I had no idea where I was going to but I knew clearly that I must move,” said he.
Gambia, one of the poorest countries in Africa, has a population of little over 2 million people but the number of its youthful population that had embarked on the perilous desert and sea journeys to Europe in recent years was alarming.
Over 14,500 Gambian refugees live in Germany, over two thirds of which call the German state of Baden-wurttemberg home.
Asylum approval rate for Gambians in Germany is low. Many spend sometimes long days and nights in camps drinking China green tea, talking about politics, women, work, music and home because they have been denied permit to work or go to school.
In recent months, Gambian officials were holding hearings to identify Gambian asylum seekers for the purpose of issuing travel documents to return them to The Gambia. Some of the asylum seekers, who honored the invitation of the authorities, were issued travel documents and removed from the federal territory of Germany.
“As the African proverb puts it:When the frog in front falls into a pit, others behind take heed, “said Ansu.
“When letters started circulating for hearing with Gambian officials, I sensed the writings all over the wall and realized that I must do something to avoid been caught at a wrong place and time,” confided Malick, who, like Ansu, had to flee his home to avoid a propable fate of expulsion from Germany.
With the absence of official statistics, it wasn’t exactly known how many rejected Gambian asylum seekers were seeking protection from friends and those ready to help them from being ejected by the country they looked up to for sanctuary, the number was believed to be in hundreds.
Meanwhile, however grim and difficult their situation looked,Gambian are now optimistic light has come at the end of the tunnel with the coming into being Germany’s new immigration law.
“The new law has not only brought reprieve from the harrowing experience of running from place to place, people been sent back home, lack and want but its an apparent indictment of the Gambia government’s deportation pact with their German counterpart,” said an apparently relieved Gambian migrant who lived in a migrant facility in Munich for three years without been allowed to work or go to school.
German and Gambian officials has since denied signing any deportation treaty.
However, this feeling of betrayal was palpable in the Gambian migrant community in
Germany and it has threatened to erode youth confidence in Gambia’s new government which was elected two years ago with high expectations and euphoria.
Meanwhile the passing of the new immigration law, which, inter alia, allows rejected asylum seekers to stay and work in Germany for 30 months, has seen some rejected Gambian asylum seekers returning to their accommodations.
” I am emboldened by the new law to return home,” said Jewru. He said he was on constant run for a month or so in order to avoid any contact with the police because his application for asylum has been rejected and like many, he was summoned for the mass hearing but decided to avoid it.
“It was like carrying an entire world on your shoulders. The fear of the police, thought of been sent to a place destroyed and abandoned by its leader for 22 years was a harrowing experience. It’s like been informed of the date of your execution,” added he.
My name is Momodou Justice Darboe. I am a Gambian journalist currently living in Germany. I worked with The Point newspaper in Gambia for eight years before fleeing to Senegal where I lived in exile for five years.
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