By Nelson Manneh

Wednesday, 7 November, 2018, was the third day of the visit of Mr. Ousman Sillah, National Assembly (NAM) for Banjul North, to the Austrian capital of Wien (Vienna), as he continues his tour of seven European countries to meet with diaspora Gambians and the friends of the Gambia.

The Banjul North NAM visits the United Nations Office in Vienna which is one of the four UN headquarters around the world. Accompanied by Mr. Siaka Jinadou and his wife Kerstin, the visiting Banjul North lawmaker was taken on a conducted tour to some parts of the facility that are open for visitors.

The hosts then organised a meeting for Hon. Sillah with the Gambian community at the Lechenfeldergurtel 27, 1160 in Wien from 6pm to 8pm. Some members of organising on the ground were Mr. Jinadou and wife, Mr. Ismaila Bah, Mr. Faballa Colley and Mrs. Bintou Badjie.

Chairing the meeting, Mr. Jinadou introduced the Banjul North NAM and the purpose of his mission and thanked him for coming to Austria.

Mr. Sillah elaborated on the four basic statutory roles of a National Assembly Member (NAM) namely legislative (law making), oversight, representative and advocacy, adding that he is primarily embarking on this tour of Europe in a bid to discharging these representative and advocacy responsibilities.

He explained his meeting with the Gambia’s Consul General in Italy and the visit to the central train station in Milano where he met and discussed with some young Gambians who were seen hanging out in the open and very cold weather without papers that regularise their stay in Italy.

Mr. Sillah also talked about his meeting with the Italian NGOs on migration and humanitarian relief and how he impressed on them to engage and prevail on the Italian authorities not to proceed with forced or involuntary repatriation of Gambian migrants. He explained how he argued that migration is an age old phenomenon that has been with mankind since time immemorial and cannot be stopped altogether, adding that Italy has both a moral and legal responsibility and duty not to bundle and dump these young people in the Gambia as this has serious unsettling ramifications. He explained how these young people while embarking on these journeys to come to Europe would escape many deaths in the harsh Sahara Desert, war-torn Libya and the Mediterranean onto the shores of Italy.

The Banjul North NAM said he has even offered an alternative to involuntary repatriation in which Italy would keep the young Gambians there for a period of time and train them acquire relevant skills and after which they would help them to establish enterprises in their home country.

He also talked about the meeting he had with the Gambian community and their association in Milan but cited some divisions among them as well as organisational challenges that make its work ineffective. He advised them to establish an umbrella association which would accommodate as affiliates all the associations in the different parts of Italy.

Mr. Sillah urged the Gambians in Austria to form a strong association that would unite all of them irrespective of partisan affiliations, ethno-linguistic considerations, religion and gender so as to promote their collective interests. He also urged to them show interest and concern with the political situation in the country.

He said apart from migration one of the issues which kept on surfacing every time at his meetings in Milan is the call for the enfranchisement of Gambians in the diaspora to start voting in elections. He told them that these are some of the issues that should be presented to the Constitutional Review Commission for inclusion in the new Constitution, adding that there is even need for the Commission to reach out to the diaspora to hear their views.

In the ensuing discussions, which lasted for two hours, Mr. Sillah responded in detail to numerous questions raised by the participants on wide ranging issues such as the sending of young Gambians by the government to work in Saudi Arabia, presidential term limit, voting rights, undocumented migrants being returned home, the issue of lack of medicines and supplies at hospitals, travels and per diems, Coalition MoU and transition, mismanagement, corruption, foundation and office of the wife the president, poverty, discovery of petroleum, non-performance of state owned enterprises, poor infrastructure and services of municipalities, etc.

The Banjul North NAM will be leaving for Germany at 9 am on Thursday, 8 November 2018.

Mr. Sillah’s speaking engagements in Germany will start on Friday, 9 November, from 4pm to 8pm at Hammonia SV Vereinshaus in Hamburg-Sternchanze directly opposite the Sternchanze station.

On Saturday, 10 November, from 12 noon to 4pm, he will be at Waller Heerstr. 7 28219 Bremen.

Another engagement on the same Saturday which starts at 7pm will take him to Arkadas, Munzstr 3/430159 Hannover.

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