The Gambia government yesterday responded to wide spread concerns among Gambians about a supposed MoU signed between The Gambia and Saudi Arabia which will pave way for Gambians to travel to the Kingdom for employment in tourism facilities.
The supposed MoU generated huge debate on social media with some accusing the government of compromising its citizens in exchange of investment benefits. The matter generated further controversy in the wake of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khasoggi, unrelated as it might be to this matter.
Addressing these concerns, Tourism Minister Hamat Bah said the MoU will eliminate ‘unscrupulous’ trafficking of Gambians as domestic slaves in the Middle East and contribute to curbing irregular migration in the country.
According to Minister Bah, the MoU, which seeks to ‘coordinate and unify efforts to achieve sustainable tourism industry development’ between the two parties is part of a Saudi investment package of over 5 billion dollars earmarked for tourism development in the Gulf State.
The Tourism minister said the Barrow government is committed to the welfare of its youthful population and has a priority to stop the back way journey and help Gambian youth realise their potentials through proper methods.
“The Saudi government has realised and recognised The Gambia as a tourist destination. They know that they need the expertise of this country and that was why they approached us to have a memorandum of understanding,” Hamat said, adding that the agreement is set to provide part-time seasonal and voluntary jobs for Gambians at tourism facilities in Saudi Arabia.
“We believe that we should engage them because we have Gambians with the right expertise that can be of benefit to them. We are going into this MoU in order to stop unscrupulous human traffickers who have engaged in illegal human trafficking of Gambians to Middle East to work as domestic slaves,” he said.
The Minister said he wonders how such arrangements tantamount to selling our own citizens. “This is an open government that is focused and has nothing to hide, but people who ran this country into disruptions for the past 22 years will not distract us. They have no justification to dictate us how to run a government because they were rejected by Gambians,” Bah added.
“This agreement will also stop the back way syndrome because you only stop this by creating the jobs that our youths are looking for in Europe,” he said.
The Minister further assured that the terms of the MoU will be properly scrutinised and monitored, adding that the agreement is very flexible and it could be changed in six months.
He continued: “Ninety percent of all the hotel staff in Saudi Arabia are foreign workers from other African countries and if these countries can succeed, why not us?” The MoU according to the minister will seek to enhance exchanges of information and expertise in national laws relating to tourism development, education, planning and investments.