In mid-October, the Gambian government relaxed various COVID-19 restrictions on travel and public gatherings in the run up to its tourism season. The country declared its markets opened, waiving a two-week mandatory quarantine imposed on people arriving in the country. However, travelers are required to show evidence of negative polymerase chain reaction test results conducted less than 72 hours prior to their arrival. As of 27 October, the country had recorded 3,665 positive COVID-19 cases and 119 deaths related to the disease.
On 15 October, UNHCR reported that it had recorded one positive COVID-19 case of a person of concern and that one refugee in Gambia had died from the virus. In addition, UNHCR’s local partner, the Gambian Food & Nutrition Association (GAFNA), has reportedly assisted schools located in refugee areas to prepare for their reopening. The support consists of equipping them with hand washing buckets, fumigating classrooms and other school spaces, providing training to teachers on COVID-19 prevention, and mitigation measures to reduce the risk of contamination in school.
In its May-July update, UNHCR reported that the closure of borders and the limitation of commercial activities due to COVID-19 had a negative impact on the life of refugee populations and others in the country. UNHCR supported GAFNA to provide cash assistance for three months (May, June and July 2020) to a total of 115 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers residing in both rural and urban areas.
In September, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) resumed its Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme from Niger to The Gambia, with the support of the European Union. The returns were suspended in March when the governments of The Gambia and Niger imposed several restrictions, including the closure of all borders. The first group were returned on 23 September, which included 26 Gambian migrants. Before their departure, the IOM reportedly organised COVID-19 testing for people hosted at transit centres in Agadez and Niamey. The migrants were given hand sanitiser, masks, and food and water. Upon arrival, the returnees underwent temperature screenings and were issued arrival assistance cards before being transported to an overnight temporary accommodation facility, where they were provided meals and core relief items, including essential hygiene supplies.
As regards the country’s prisons, on 26 April, President Adama Barrow pardoned 115 prisoners in three different prisons–Mile 2 in Bajul (78 prisoners); Jeshwang (24 prisoners); and Jangjangbureh (13 prisoners)–in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19. On 11 September, the prison administration stated that it is compulsory to wear masks within prisons, to wash hands regularly, and to test detainees and personnel. Nonetheless, medical professionals have said that they are worried due to overpopulation. Moreover, on 25 September, an anonymous source reported that around 60 prisoners tested positive at the Mile 2 prison. Most of these prisoners were newly arrived prisoners.
While the GDP has noted in the past that the Mile 2 prison was used to detain undocumented migrants, we have been unable to confirm if it continues to be used for this purpose or whether any specific measures were taken to protect non-citizens in immigration procedures.
- M. K. Darboe, “Gambia Relaxes Virus Limitations on Travels, Gatherings,” Anadolu Agency, 11 October 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/gambia-relaxes-virus-limitations-on-travels-gatherings/2002477
- Worldometer, “COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic,” accessed on 27 October 2020, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
- UNHCR, “COVID-19 Emergency Response: West & Central Africa,” 15 October 2020, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/country/gmb
- UNHCR, “COVID-19 Emergency Response: West & Central Africa,” 1 October 2020, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/country/gmb
- UNHCR, “COVID-19 Emergency Response: West & Central Africa,” 17 September 2020, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/country/gmb
- Xinhua, “Gambian Leader Pardons 115 Prisoners to Contain COVID-19,” China.org, 26 April 2020, http://www.china.org.cn/world/Off_the_Wire/2020-04/26/content_75975913.htm
- Prison Insider, “La Fièvre des Prisons: Gambie,” 18 March 2020, https://www.prison-insider.com/articles/afrique-coronavirus-la-fievre-des-prisons
- M. Jawo, “Mile 2 Prison Hit by COVID-19,” The Point, 25 September 2020, https://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/headlines/mile-2-prison-hit-by-covid-19
- Global Detention Project, “Immigration Detention in the Gambia,” https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/africa/gambia
- International Organization for Migration (IOM), “Voluntary Returns from Niger to The Gambia Resume After Six-Month Hiatus,” 25 September 2020, https://www.iom.int/fr/news/voluntary-returns-niger-gambia-resume-after-six-month-hiatus