With a population of 2.3 million, The Gambia is one of Africa's smallest countries. Migration plays a significant role in Gambian society. Overseas remittances of an estimated 118,000 Gambians living abroad is equivalent to 20 per cent of the country's GDP, while rural-to-urban migration has led to increasing urbanization. Over the past few years, the pursuit for socioeconomic advancement—especially among the youth—has driven many to undertake irregular migration. Over 35,000 Gambians arrived in Europe by irregular means between 2014 and 2018, with many others in Africa along the Central Mediterranean Route opting for voluntary return.
Having established an operational presence in 2001, IOM The Gambia officially became a country office in July 2017 and implements an extensive range of programs in Migrant Protection and Assistance (MPA), including Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR), and Counter-Trafficking (CT) and Assistance to Vulnerable Migrants (AVM), as well as Communication for Development (C4D), Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), Immigration and Border Management (IBM), Labour Mobility and Human Development (LHD), Migration Environment and Climate Change (MECC) and Migration Health. IOM also works closely with the Government of The Gambia to strengthen migration governance through national coordination frameworks and evidence-based policy design, particularly through research and collection and analysis of data to inform policymaking. IOM has also provided technical assistance to the Government in developing its first standalone National Migration Policy. Operationally, IOM facilitates the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants, placing a particular emphasis on the protection of vulnerable migrants. Between 2017 and June 2021, over 6,000 Gambian returnees were assisted. IOM also works with local partners to combat trafficking in persons, manage borders effectively, promote the health of migrants, raise awareness on the risks of and alternatives to irregular migration, advocate for safe and regular labour migration, and promote diaspora engagement to contribute to economic development through knowledge and skills transfer. As a whole, IOM supports the Government of The Gambia and national and local partners to build their capacities to protect migrants, promote their rights and better manage migration.