A protest march organized by some stranded Gambian trafficked women in Lebanon, has turned out violent, with the protesters vandalizing the Gambian Consulate in Beirut. The trafficked women, some of whom, had escaped from their Arab slave masters, are demanding for their immediate repatriation to The Gambia. Gambia’s Foreign Ministry is appealing for calm and it says efforts are underway to help evacuate the stranded women. Foreign Ministry spokesman Saikou Ceesay says efforts are underway to facilitate the return of the women to Banjul. “The Government of The Gambia has been doing a lot with the Consulate in Beirut and also the Embassy in Riyadh to facilitate their return and as a result, waivers have been secured, emergency passports have been prepared funds have been raised in a bit to secure their return to the country,” said spokesman Ceesay.
The protesters had their faces covered. They say they are tired of living in Lebanon and are asking the government to repatriate them back to Banjul.
The protesters had sticks and hammers in their possession. They stormed the outside perimeter of the Consulate and started hitting the doors with hammers.
“It was yesterday, we received report that the Honorary Consulate of the Office of The Gambia, in Beirut has been vandalized by Gambians, who were seeking for repatriation to the country and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns this action in absolute terms, we condemn it, and then we also condemn in absolute term the willful damage to property,” Mr. Ceesay remarked.
Ceesay has condemned the conduct of the protesters. He says The Gambian government wouldn’t condone any form of violent protest.
None of the protesters were arrested because according to Ceesay, such an attempt was going to slow down the government’s plans to evacuate the stranded women.
“When the police attempted to arrest them, it was the Honorary Consul himself, who intervened and asked them to let them go because we are as of now, at an advance stage to return them to the country. If he should allow them to be arrested, that would further complicate their return to the country,” Ceesay added.
Spokesman Ceesay has called on the stranded Gambian women to give peace a chance. He has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to fighting human trafficking.
“This government is concerned with the protection of rights and liberties and that is why it established, National Agency against trafficking in persons and therefore what it wants to do, is to investigate cartels involved in this illegal activities in The Gambia, and also liaise with the authorities in Beirut with a view to investigating those engage in the practice,” he said.
Ceesay has called on Gambian youths to stay home and tap other opportunities. He says the youths are the future leaders of tomorrow and should assume their rightful role towards nation building.
Gambian political analyst Pa Samba Jaw held a different view. He says having a National Agency against human trafficking, is one thing, but ensuring its efficiency and effectiveness is another thing.
“It is easy to establish an institution, but is it functional, is it doing what it is suppose to do, Pa, you report more than anybody else, when was the last time you heard about anybody, being prosecuted in The Gambia, for trafficking people, so, if you have it, yes you might have an office there, the government might say we need to do something, but at least until something is done, nothing is done,” Jaw said.
Jaw says there is a lack of political will to tackle human trafficking. He says massive unemployment is driving Gambian youngsters into such a dangerous journey overseas.
“The government has continued to fail the young people of The Gambia, they were failed under Jammeh, they are being failed under Barrow and we cannot just be giving this flowery statements, youths this, youths that, but there is nothing concrete in terms of policy that this government can put before the young people to inspire them,” he added.
Jaw has called on Gambian women to keep the faith and stay home despite the economic challenges in the country. He warns that given the dangers associated with such a journey, it is better to stay home and pursue other opportunities.
He urges the government to prioritize the fight against human trafficking. He says cases of human trafficking, should not only be investigated, but those found responsible, should be prosecuted.