Stranded Migrants in The Gambia Receive Emergency Food Assistance

Stranded migrants in The Gambia receive emergency food assistance. Photo: IOM

Banjul – “I came to The Gambia to sell bitter kola. I am a businesswoman; this is what I do,” explained Adaoby Thomas from Nigeria. Each year, The Gambia traditionally welcomes thousands of cross-border traders from West Africa.

“Unfortunately, before I was able to finish selling what I came here with, the outbreak started. The borders were closed, and it was very difficult to finish selling what I had in stock,” continued Adaoby.

With the Gambian-Senegalese border closed since 23 March to limit the spread of COVID-19, migrants like Adaoby have been left stranded in the country and in urgent need of support.

A vulnerability assessment conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) uncovered that, while the migrants are generally in good mental and physical condition and receiving some support from their families, the prolonged border closure has taken a toll.

Following the assessment, IOM provided emergency food assistance (on 24/7) to 21 migrants, which included rice, sugar, oil, milk, as well as hygiene products. This support was made possible through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

The migrants, identified as requiring urgent support by the ECOWAS Citizens in The Gambia (ECOCIG) Association, have been stranded in the country since early 2020 or late 2019. The group includes ten Guineans, four Nigerians, three Sierra Leonians, two Ghanaians and two Malians. Twelve of them are male, while 11 are female.

Many of them are looking forward to return home as soon as possible. “Today’s support will help me very well, but I cannot wait to go back to Nigeria. I am a mechanic, and my absence back home has really affected my business,” lamented Barry Noba, who arrived in The Gambia for what was meant to be a brief stay.

Over two-thirds of the migrants are below the age of 35 and came to The Gambia to enroll in short English courses, while others migrated to do business, visit family or seek medical treatment.

“The COVID-19 crisis is impacting all of us, including migrants. This support to vulnerable West African migrants stranded in The Gambia demonstrates the European Union’s enduring commitment to protect migrants’ human rights and dignity,” expressed H.E. Attila Lajos, EU Ambassador to The Gambia.

IOM continues to work with local partners to identify potentially vulnerable migrants, left stranded due to COVID-19, and assess how best to respond to their immediate needs.

“With the pandemic’s impact on human mobility around the region, it’s vital we take into consideration the needs of migrants who are often the most vulnerable,” remarked Fumiko Nagano, IOM’s Chief of Mission in The Gambia. “With most migrants still stranded and unable to return home, IOM is committed to supporting the Government of The Gambia in ensuring a migrant-inclusive approach to COVID-19 response.”


For more information, please contact Miko Alazas at IOM The Gambia; Tel: +220 330 3168, Email:

For more information on the regional response, please contact Florence Kim at IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa; Tel : +221 78 620 62 13; Email:

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