Angered by their deportation from the Spanish soil, Gambian illegal migrants on Saturday turned Banjul International Airport chaotic. The returned emigrants, who are mainly youths, numbered a hundred and forty-four. They came home empty-handed.
Their deportation came few weeks after The Gambia had signed anti-illegal migration cooperation deal with Spain, which includes a controversial paragraph of non-voluntary repatriation whereas nationality is established.
Shortly after the chartered repatriation planes landed at the Banjul International Airport, the deportees at first refused to disembark from the DC9 and F29 aircrafts but following a chaotic scene, they were forced to do with the intervention of security officers.
"Some disgruntled Gambia deportees were spotted vandalising the glasses at the airport, smashing and destroying air-conditioners, and the wind-screens of vehicles parked at the old airport terminal building," reported a source at the airport. "Some were violently knocking their heads against the walls as if they wanted to commit suicide."
"The returnees were misbehaving and the situation was almost out of control. So I had to intervene with my team to put everything in order," the Gambia Armed Forces Commander, Lt Colonel Masaneh Kinteh, confirmed.
The deportees accused Spanish authorities of conspiring with their Gambian counterparts to deport them. "This is a breach of agreement because we were told that we were going to be transferred from a refugee camp to Madrid and Amsterdam. We were not told the reality," one of the deportees claimed.
Gambian government officials who were at the airport to welcome the deportees exonerated the government for being responsible for deportation. "The government was only helping their return after the Spanish authorities demanded that they leave," said Fatou Jassey-Kuyateh from the Office of the President.
Ms Jassey-Kuyateh appealed to all would-be travellers to make good use of the legal means to get through Europe and avoid entering illegally.
"It is the responsibility of the government to help stranded Gambian in Europe to return home," the Director of Immigration, Musa Mboob pointed out. Out of the 3,000 illegal immigrants in Spain who claimed to be Gambians, Mr Mboob revealed, only 263 were found to be Gambians.
The deportees were each given dalasi 150 (roughly euro 5) and euro 300 by the Gambian and Spanish governments respectively to be able to re-establish in The Gambia. All had by far higher expenses getting illegally to Spain.
The reaction among Gambian returnees is similar to those returned involuntarily to Senegal in end-May. In Senegal, these scenes caused public outrage, which forces Dakar authorities to renegotiate their repatriation deal with Spain.