Europe-Africa Relations: Coup d’état in Guinea and Migrant Row with Gambia

Written by | Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

The European Union on Sunday (5 September) condemned the coup d’état in Guinea, in which special forces soldiers ousted the country’s long-serving president, telling the nation they had dissolved its government and constitution and closed its land and air borders. “I condemn the taking over by force in Guinea and I call for the immediate release of President Alpha Condé”, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell tweeted. As also the United Nations condemned any takeover by force and the West African region’s economic bloc threatened reprisals, the elite army unit’s head, Mamady Doumbouya, said “poverty and endemic corruption” had prompted his forces to decide to remove President Condé from office. “We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya, a former French foreign legionnaire, said on state television, adding that the coup leaders plan “to rewrite a constitution together.”
The junta that appeared to have seized power later said that Condé was not harmed, his wellbeing was guaranteed and he was being given access to his doctors. Condé won a third term in October last year after changing the constitution to allow him to stand again, triggering violent protests from the opposition. In recent weeks the government has sharply increased taxes to replenish state coffers and raised the price of fuel by 20%, causing widespread frustration. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened to impose sanctions, while The African Union said it would meet urgently and take “appropriate measures”, with Nigeria, the region’s dominant power, calling for a return to constitutional order.
Meanwhile, the European Union appears to be escalating its row with Gambia over expelled migrants. Experts warn the bloc could tighten visa requirements for Gambians following the country’s decision to deny landing permits to flights carrying deportees from EU countries, particularly from Germany. Gambian migrants were deported from Libya in 2017 and now the EU is also trying to send them home. More than 2,000 Gambian migrants who have exhausted their asylum appeals in Germany are awaiting repatriation. According to initial plans, the first batch of “failed Gambian asylum-seekers” was expected to arrive in Banjul, Gambia’s capital, on 1 September. But an official from Gambia’s Foreign Ministry told local media that his country’s new position is not to accept requests for deportations. Gambia has cited security concerns and the inability to reintegrate as reasons for its decision.
“The action per se by the government of the Gambia has no place under international law,” Gawaya Tegulle, a Ugandan expert in international law, said, adding, however, that “we are seeing two wrong decisions. I do not agree that the [Germany’s] decision to deport all these people is lawful.” In response, the EU plans to tighten visa requirements for Gambian nationals — a decision that may affect the entire African continent. “There will be the fear that because Gambia is being seen as defiant, we may see increased visa restrictions against Gambian nationals and also African nationals by the EU and the broader Western community because there is the fear that there are migrants from these countries and they will not be able to get them back,” Tegulle said. “They didn’t go to Europe to be deported back to Africa,” he said, noting that the prospects for more than 2,000 people in a country grappling with soaring unemployment would be bleak. The refusal by Gambian authorities to accept migrants back may be also because of the contribution of their remittances to the country’s economy that totaled €495 million in 2020, which account for over 20% of Gambia’s GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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