Leaked document: Migratory situation in Senegal and The Gambia

July 24th, 2023 - written by: LJ, migration-control.info

Migration-control.info received a leaked document from the Council of the EU Presidency to its Working Party on External Aspects of Asylum and Migration (EMWP) from July 14, 2023. The brief document maps out what the EU considers important developments and cooperation in regard to migration in both countries.

Senegal: long-standing partners with shared democratic values

Fishing boats in Ngor, Dakar (c) migration.control-info

Senegal is introduced in the document as a long-standing partner which is “particularly aligned” with the EU in terms of democratic values.

A surprising framing in view of the country’s violent oppression of demonstrations, which according to the amnesty international resulted in the killing of at least 23 protestors in June only. According to the initiative CatograFree Senegal, a collective of journalists, citizens and acadamics, these numbers go up to 29.

Besides this, the leaked document mentions Senegal’s capacity and “appetite” to open itself to “a wide range of relationships with other international actors,” indicative of competition over influence and stakes of cooperation for the EU.

Reduced numbers of arrivals and roll out of new projects…

The document stresses that the decrease of arrivals since 2021 via the so-called Atlantic Route is linked to Senegal’s cooperation in “preventing” illegalized migration.

Earlier this month reports indicated that these numbers have in itself become politicized with the Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claiming that warnings of three boats carrying about 300 migrants lost and likely drowned on the Atlantic route by the Spanish rescue NGO Salvamento Maritimo were “completely unfounded”.

The document goes on to outline the cooperation on migration between Senegal and the EU. Cooperation takes place through the Team Europe Initiative on the Atlantic/Western Mediterranean Route, and Senegal’s role as a member of the Steering Committee of the Rabat process. The EU is further currently financing the following migration related projects in the country:

  • Migrant Protection, Return and Reintegration Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa – regional programme that supports the protection of stranded migrants in Sub-Saharan African countries, as well as their voluntary return and reintegration”.
  • Common Operational Partnership project and its follow-up through the NDICI-Global Europe Project ‘Appui à la sécurité intérieure et à la Stabiité’ (EUR 15 million)”.
  • NETCOP, where a second phase of EU support through the Internal Security Fund was granted in April 2023 to support the fight against migrant smuggling, border management and related practices.”
  • Youth-focused budget support (EUR 70 million) – the fourth axis of this budget support is related to migration governance, i.e. the adoption of a national policy and action plan on migration, the continuation of the territorialisation of Senegal’s reintegration policy, as well as returns and readmissions.”
  • “The project ‘Agropoles d’avenir et l’intégration des chaînes de valeur dans les systèmes alimentaires’, through which the EU seeks to have a strong impact on the root causes of irregular migration”.
  • Platform for Remittances, Investments and Migrants’ Entrepreneurship in Africa (PRIME Africa).”
  • Pilot project for business mobility with Belgium under the MPF (EUR 2.6 million), which aims to build the capacities of Senegalese entrepreneurs and connect them with their Belgian peers.

Fishing boats at the coast of Dakar (c) migration.control-info

Frontex negotiation continues to be stalled and 'Talent Partnership' on the table…

The document further indicates that Frontex negotiations continue to be stalled. The document states that the Commission holds a Council mandate to negotiate a Status Agreement but does not mention the launch of these negotiations.

Further, the document states that the possibility of launching a Talent Partnership on (limited) legal migration pathways is a possibility. However, the recently leaked update on the state of play of the EU’s external migration cooperation shows that this is put on hold until Senegal has intensified its cooperation on deportation.

Technical dialogues took place in December 2022 and March 2023.

Support for “national migration policy”

Finally, it is notable that the document states that the EU was ready to support the country’s national migration policy and goes on to mention the adoption of Senegal’s “national migration strategy and action plan” which is set to be adopted on July 27.

It is notable here that this document is a national strategy against “irregular migration” with previous attempts to adopt a more global strategy on migration has proven inconclusive.

EU Delegation in Dakar, (c) migration.control-info

The Gambia: deportations as issue number one

The leaked document states that the EU’s support to the Gambia’s democratic transition has had a “huge impact” on the number of departures which have decreased overall since 2016.

EU-funded projects in The Gambia

As Senegal, The Gambia is also part of the Atlantic/Western Mediterranean Route TEI, as well as a member of the Rabat Process. EU funded projects on migration which are currently ongoing in the country and listed in the document are:

  • Common Operational Partnership project with The Gambia against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings funded by the Internal Security Fund
  • ‘Supporting the Security Sector Reform process in The Gambia for improved human security, migration and border management’ an initiative through which the EU and The Gambia closely work together on border management as well as smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings
  • “Platform for Remittances, Investments and Migrants’ Entrepreneurship in Africa (PRIME Africa).”

Cooperation on deportations

According to the document, the EU-Gambia non-binding (informal) readmission arrangement has been applied throughout the past 16 months.

Despite strong criticism by civil society over deportations, the statement notes the cooperative attitude of The Gambian government on the issue. It highlights that the country has lifted its moratorium on charter deportations, continued cooperating on deportations on commercial flights, continued dialogues through Joint Working Groups in October 2022 and March 2023, mapped out ways to enhance identification procedures and issuance of travel documents prior to deportations, and appointed a coordinating migration focal point at The Gambian Embassy in Brussels.

Prior to the cooperation on deportations, The Gambian government attempted to resist the contentious practice. This has resulted in the EU filing visa sanctions in 2021 and 2022, towards the Gambia, making it even harder to acquire visas from the West African country.

Despite bilateral cooperation on deportations, the EU is also expected to support “return and readmission” under the upcoming State and Resilience Building Contract 4 (SRBC4) which stands to be adopted in 2023.