United States Customs and Immigration agents have started deporting Gambians, who have been living in the US illegally over the years. This followed, the recent normalization of bilateral relations between Washington and the new government in Banjul. The former Government of president Yahya Jammeh, has in the past refused to accept Gambian deportees from the US. Over two thousand Gambians have been lined up to be sent back home. 

In response to Banjul’s “no deportation policy against the US,” the former Obama Administration decided to impose visa travel ban against Gambia government officials and their spouses. The Gambia was among the list of twenty countries globally designated at the time as nations refusing to accept deportees from the US.

Donald Trump, has described himself as the “Law and Order” President. He says criminal aliens will be deported from the US.

The government of president Adama Barrow, has since decided to normalize diplomatic relations between Banjul and Washington by accepting Gambian deportees. This was confirmed by Janel Heird, the Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Banjul. The US Diplomat told a local Gambian paper, the Standard Newspaper, in an interview that there are already encouraging steps taken by the new government to swiftly resolve the travel ban against Gambia government officials.

Mr. Omar Bah, is the Executive Director for the Rhode Island based Refugee Dream Center. Mr. Bah comments on the recent deportation of Gambians from the United States.

“The Gambian Community in Rhode Island, are quite afraid and scared. I have spoken to few people, who walked to my center; the refugee dream center; seeking help; guidance and counselling about how to go about it. We have about fifteen hundred Gambians living in Rhode Island. A large amount of them, do not have a documentation and may be subjected to deportation because of this situation right now. What we are seeing is a huge level of panic in the community; because first people don’t know what to do; secondly, they are likely going to be affected by the deportation process,” said Mr. Bah.

Mr. Bah tells this medium that efforts are underway to help the panic stricken Gambian immigrant population in Rhode Island.

“We as a non-profit; what we can do is to offer legal support. We have group of pro-bono lawyers, who help Immigrants and refugees; those are currently working with people, who need help, or specific need. There are a lot of things that lawyers can do, but people may not know; but when they walk into the center, they get supported. So, it is very likely that a lot of people may not be deported because of the support they are getting from the center. We will continue to offer them support though the pro-bono lawyers, who come to help through our center,” Mr. Bah added.  

Mr. Saikou Ceesay, is a Communication officer at Gambia’s Foreign Ministry in Banjul. He told the Point Newspaper that some of the Gambian deportees, were convicted on criminal charges ranging from drug trafficking, domestic violence, resisting an officer, revenue tax violations, among others. He says the deportees had exhausted all the legal remedies available to them under US laws. Mr. Ceesay also says they are expecting an additional 29 Gambian deportees from the US.

Ebrima Colley, is a Gambian American based in the State of Missouri. Mr. Colley says the deportations will have an adverse impact on Gambian families.

“It is going to deny that market woman somewhere in Brikama, Serre-Kunda, Bakau, who is struggling to make ends meet to feed a family. It is going to deny her from that bag of rice she usually purchases at the end of the month; either from a son’s remittances from America, or Germany, or any other country. It is going to deny that blacksmith working in Brikama, or Basse, the amount of money he usually receives from foreign remittance from one “ semester” from Switzerland or Austria,” Colley remarked.

Foreign remittances account for a greater chunk of Gambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is reported that millions of dollars are remitted to the Gambia annually from overseas.

Mr. Colley says the US Immigration officials should reconsider some of the deportation cases for humanitarian grounds.

“Yes, first of all, USCIS, they have what they called humanitarian ground reasons. I am imploring; I am begging them to push those buttons; the humanitarian visas buttons to consider the separation of families, especially if the family breadwinner; the husband or the wife is working so hard in this country; they haven’t committed any crime; the only crime they had is that they are here illegally. They can use those humanitarian grounds to support them and avoid destroying a family. Now if they had committed a crime; a drug possession crime or some other thing; then those goes beyond the frontiers of what should be considered the humanitarian ground,” he added.

Ms. Marie Cham, has been living in the US since 1988. She is a banker. Ms. Cham says she is concerned about the plight of single parent illegals.

“That is a very sensitive area. I live in Rhode Island and right now we have so many single parents; women, who are working very hard just to achieve the American dream. They have their kids here; they are law abiding citizens; they are paying their taxes; they are doing three, two jobs just to provide a better life for their kids and the future generation. If there is something that the Gambia government can work out with the US government, the Trump administration to help these people in anyway because these kids are American citizens and their parents are contributing in this economy; that would be something highly welcomed,” she said.

Mr. Waka Mbye, is a Gambian migrant resident in Raleigh, North Carolina. Mr. Mbye says the recent political change in the Gambia will affect some of the pending asylum application cases before the US Immigration Department.

“This is a very important case and very sensitive as well. Right now, we all knew that Gambians are being deported back to Gambia, and that has never been the case before. But my advice to the Gambians living in abroad especially in America, is that if they have a pending case especially it has to do with political asylum; they no longer have a case. If you have a political asylum that was based on Yahya Jammeh’s government; Yahya Jammeh is no longer in power; you don’t have a case. Let them speak to their attorney,” Mr. Mbye stated.

President Adama Barrow came to power in December of 2016. He has been calling on Gambians residing overseas to return home and contribute their quota to national development.

Join The Conversation