Council adopts temporary visa measures for nationals of The Gambia under the EU Visa Code
The decision is the result of a factual and objective assessment concluded by the European Commission in February 2021 of EU partner countries’ cooperation in the area of return and readmission of migrants who have no right to stay in the EU. On the basis of this assessment, the European Commission concluded in July 2021 that the level of cooperation with some countries, including The Gambia, is not sufficient and submitted a proposal for temporary visa measures . The EU, reaching the same conclusion, has now adopted the temporary visa measures as presented below.
The EU has, throughout the year, continued to engage with the authorities of The Gambia informing them of the process under the EU Visa Code, the EU’s expectations on improving cooperation on return and readmission, and the possible consequences in case cooperation did not improve. The overall positive relationship between the EU and The Gambia was taken into due consideration at all stages of the process.
“As in every partnership, the one between The Gambia and the EU warrants a commitment to responsibilities on both sides. It is our hope that the measures agreed today will foster and improve cooperation between the EU and The Gambia in the area of return and readmission. These are very important pillars of a comprehensive and tailor-made migration partnership with The Gambia”, says H.E. Corrado Pampaloni, Ambassador of the European Union to The Gambia.
What do the temporary visa measures entail?
The adopted measures will not affect the possibility of applying for a short stay visa or modify the conditions for being granted a visa. The measures are the following:
- All applicants have to submit a full set of documentary evidence;
- The 15 calendar days processing period is suspended – this means that the processing of visa applications will take longer;
- The issuing of multiple entry visas is suspended-– this means that systematically single entry visas will be issued;
- The optional visa fee waiver for holders of diplomatic and service passports is also suspended.
The above measures do not apply to the following categories of visa applicants or situations:
- family members of EU citizens or other beneficiaries of free movement in the EU.
- Nationals of The Gambia applying for a visa for the purpose of attending meetings of international intergovernmental organisations or of international conferences hosted by a Member State.
- Nationals of The Gambia for whom the visa requirement is waived under Article 4 and 6 of the “Visa Regulation”, as for example civilian air and sea crew members on duty or recognised refugees residing in a EU Member State.
In six months from the adoption of measures, the European Commission will assess whether progress is achieved and if measures in place require adapting or repealing.
A revision of the EU Visa Code in February 2020 introduced a new mechanism linking the EU visa policy to the cooperation with partner countries in the area of the return and readmission of their nationals who do not have the right to stay in the EU.
The annual cycle of assessments by the European Commission of how non-EU partner countries cooperate on returns and readmission is a standardized process for selected countries, based on comprehensive set of indicators in all stages of the readmission process: from identification to the issuance of travel documents and effective return, including the non-acceptance of charter flights.
The EU Delegation would like to emphasise that, under international law, all countries have the sovereign right to decide who can enter and stay on their territory, as well as the obligation to readmit their nationals. Individuals who have no right to stay in the Member States of the EU must return to their home country in a dignified way, in full respect of fundamental rights .
The current situation where The Gambia does not live up to the modalities on returns it agreed with the EU is in breach of the obligation to readmit own nationals and its international commitments. The EU institutions together with EU Member States have been engaging with the Gambian authorities to move towards a resumption of returns, taking account of both the concerns on the Gambian side and the needs of the EU Member States.
A constructive cooperation on returns is important especially given the partnership between The Gambia and the EU and the support that the EU continues to provide to the country – financial support per capita is among the highest in the whole of Africa. A substantial proportion of this funding is going towards creating jobs and economic opportunities, especially for the youth and for reintegration of returnees.
The EU will continue promoting voluntary return, including through reintegration assistance and providing support for reception of the returnees.
The European Union continues its engagement and will work with The Gambia to improve cooperation on readmission as part of its continued overall engagement with the country. It will also continue to support The Gambia in its efforts to enhance democracy, to promote national reconciliation and to further the protection of human rights, with the objective to contribute to the development and well-being of The Gambia and its population.
 Regulation (EU) 2018/1806 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement. OJ L 303, 28.11.2018 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32018R1806