U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Gambia
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||11 July 2007|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Gambia, 11 July 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46963881c.html [accessed 1 February 2015]|
There were no reports of refoulement. Gambia accepted roughly 6,400 Senegalese refugees between March and the end of the year. Most of them found shelter in some 50 villages along the border, where families of a similar ethnic group hosted them. The Gambia Red Cross Society, along with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), registered the new arrivals.
Gambia was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol but maintained reservations on its clauses providing exemptions for refugees from exceptional and provisional measures, the right to work, labor protection, social security, and administrative assistance. Gambia was also party to the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. It had no refugee law, but its Ministry of the Interior had a unit dedicated to screening asylum seekers for refugee status. UNHCR supported the Government's screening and monitored the process. Asylum seekers had no access to counsel.
While the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol Relating to Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment (ECOWAS Protocol) granted holders of passports from ECOWAS nations with passports and health certificates visa-free entry and legal stay for 90 days, Gambia limited this to 30 days, limiting the time asylum seekers had to regularize their status.
Detention/Access to Courts
In November, authorities held 300 Sierra Leonean refugees for eight hours at a police station, despite their possession of valid identification cards. On six occasions during 2006, the Refugee Counseling Centre (RCC) set up by UNHCR and the Gambia Food and Nutrition Association (GAFNA) intervened to secure the release of refugees detained up to a day for lack of documentation.
The Immigration Law allowed authorities to detain any persons arriving without a passport for up to 48 hours if they could not adequately explain their lack of documentation, but there were no reports of this during 2006.
The Government allowed local and international human rights groups to monitor prisons, but did not allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access during 2006.
During 2006, the Government issued about 900 identification cards to refugees. None of the 6,400 Senegalese refugees who arrived during 2006 received cards, although the Government planned to issue them in 2007.
The 1996 Constitution guaranteed non-political rights, including the rights to life and personal liberty, to all persons in Gambia legally on par with nationals, but there was no precedent for refugees using the courts to vindicate these rights.
Freedom of Movement/Residence
Gambia did not restrict the residence of refugees, and the 6,400 who arrived from Senegal in 2006 settled freely in villages along the border. Police occasionally stopped refugees for failing to carry their identity cards but generally released them within a few hours with intervention by the RCC.
Gambia's Immigration Department did not grant refugees any international travel documents in 2006. Two students applied, but their requests were still pending at year's end, as the Government required proof of their admission to foreign colleges.
The Constitution extended the rights to free movement, residence, and departure to "Every person lawfully within The Gambia" but reserved the right to reenter to nationals.
Right to Earn a Livelihood
Gambia allowed recognized refugees with Government-issued refugee cards to work legally, with rights on par with nationals. Asylum seekers and other foreigners without refugee cards had to obtain residence permits to work legally, and the same rules applied to them as to other foreigners in Gambia. Gambia exempted Senegalese nationals from the requirement of residence permits.
Residence permits cost about $18 (500 Dalasi) for ECOWAS nationals and about $1,100 (30,000 Dalasi) for others. The permits expired yearly on January 31, and applicants could renew them at immigration offices throughout the country for ECOWAS citizens and in Banjul for other foreigners. The Government could revoke them at any time.
Gambia maintained reservations on the 1951 Convention's rights to work and the protection of labor legislation, accepting refugees' exemption from restrictions only after four years, rather than three, and omitting any exemptions for refugees with spouses or children who were nationals. The protections of the Labor Law, including the right to join unions, applied to foreign workers as to Gambians, as long as they had work permits.
Public Relief and Education
UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), and other UN agencies provided emergency relief with the help of the Gambian Red Cross Society, including food, clothing, and basic household items, to newly-arriving refugees from Senegal. The WFP began assistance in October and planned to continue through at least October 2007. It provided food aid to villagers hosting the refugees as well as to the refugees themselves.
Refugee children had access to education through grade nine, sponsored by UNHCR and the GAFNA. Vocational training was also available but limited by available funding. GAFNA also provided micro-credit loans, material assistance for funerals and childbirth, health services, and recreational equipment. The Constitution extended the right to education, including free primary instruction, to "all persons."
Gambia cooperated with and granted access to UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies aiding refugees, but the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper it prepared for international donors made no mention of refugees.