Sunday, January 26, 2020

Gov’t Wants to Reintegrate Returnees into Society – Says Information Minister

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By Ndey Sowe

Ebrima Sillah the Minster of Information and Communication Technology has said, as a first priority, government wants to reintegrate the survivors that returned from Mauritania recently into society and reunite them with their families.

He remarked: “We want to have a detailed profile of them”, but he added that the first priority is to reunite them with their families.

Sillah was speaking to this reporter on phone during an interview on Tuesday, 10th December 2019, regarding the plans that government may have for the survivors among dozens of irregular migrant returnees whose boat capsized off the Mauritania cost. This has claimed the lives of 6o people, whose bodies were since buried in Mauritania.

He added that as a matter of urgency, government will also want to see that they are integrated back to the society.

Meanwhile he also said that government will send a high delegation to the victims’ families to mourn with them and to console them, as well as reassure them that “we are concerned as a government and we will do everything within our limits.”

“Resources are also an issue for the Gambia”, he added; but he promised that they will continue to work with partners and government agencies to ensure that the issue of youths is catered for.

“A government does not sit and say that we are going to create employment for only one section of a whole country”, he remarked, because the issue of youths is a very serious concern to them.

He acknowledged that government jobs are limited, “we want to expand the productive base of this country so that young people can go into agri-business and other skilled jobs that will make them self-employed.”

In response to the arrest of the Alkalo of Barra, he said: “I don’t know why the Alkalo of Barra was arrested, in our view this is like human trafficking, government is looking at this from a very serious angle.

“If you all put money together and you have people smuggler and traffickers”, he said, “then we have no choice but to investigate and if there is criminal dimension to this, then the perpetrator will be arrested and brought before the law.”

He pointed out that over fifty young people losing their lives is a big lost to any country.
Miko Alazas, Communication Officer International Organsation for Migration (IOM) told this reporter that IOM is not involved in the return process; adding the return of the migrants was coordinated between the Mauritian and Gambian authorities.

“We are only involved in voluntary return operations”, he said, adding IOM was requested by the government of the Gambia to provide post arrival assistance.

In this regard, he said IOM assisted two hundred and fifty- six (256) returnees but that this might not really be the number of returnees that came back.

“We cannot confirm, we don’t know if all returnees ended up availing or packing through IOM assistance, we cannot confirm that number but we can say 256 have received IOM assistance.

“We work closely in particular with the Immigration Department and the Ministry of the Interior to know the time of arrival of the returnees.

He said the returnees were provided with pocket money for transportation which he said was around one thousand four hundred dalasi (D1400).

He said there were 79 Gambian survivors from the shipwreck, and from the second ship that was intercepted, there were 150 to 180 irregular migrants; while the number of deaths amounted to 62.

“We don’t know how many of those were Gambians or Senegalese,” he said.

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