With a population of 2 million, The Gambia is one of Africa's smallest countries. Despite its size, migration plays a significant role in Gambian society. Overseas remittances of an estimated 118,000 Gambians living abroad account for over 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 with the aim of reaching Europe. 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), Immigration and Border Management (IBM), Labour Mobility and Human Development (LHD), 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 national migration policy. Operationally, IOM facilitates the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants, placing a particular emphasis on the protection of vulnerable migrants. Between January 2017 and June 2020, over 5,600 Gambian returnees were assisted. IOM also works with local partners to combat trafficking in persons, promote the health of migrants, raise awareness on the risks of and alternatives to irregular 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.

Migration Activities

Migrant Protection and Assistance (assisted voluntary return and reintegration, assistance to vulnerable migrants, counter-trafficking)

EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration: The Gambia

The Joint Initiative aims to contribute to strengthening the governance of migration and the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants in The Gambia.

Interventions include:

  • Building the capacities of government and local stakeholders on migration governance, sustainable reintegration of returning migrants, and ownership of reintegration activities at the national level;
  • Protecting vulnerable migrants;
  • Providing reintegration assistance to returning Gambians;
  • Conducting awareness-raising and sensitization activities targeting the general public on the risks of and the alternatives to irregular migration;
  • Collecting and analyzing data on migration.

Donors: EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa

Strengthening sustainable and holistic reintegration of returnees in The Gambia

A joint project with the International Trade Centre (ITC) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the aim is to strengthen the foundations for peace by fostering positive economic and social interdependence between returning migrants and host community members, as well as facilitating sustainable reintegration that will contribute to enhanced social cohesion.

IOM’s focus is on three key areas:

  1. Establishment of the National Coordination Mechanism (NCM) on Migration
  2. Enhanced mental health and psychosocial support services for returning migrants through community outreach health teams and capacity building of national and local actors
  3. Research on the implications of irregular migration, return, and reintegration on peacebuilding

Donors: United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF)

Bilateral Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) Programmes

Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) is an indispensable part of a comprehensive approach to migration management, aiming at orderly and humane return and reintegration of migrants who are unable or unwilling to remain in host or transit countries and wish to return voluntarily to their countries of origin.

IOM provides AVRR support in collaboration with other IOM missions in countries hosting Gambian migrants. In The Gambia, IOM also participates in pilot services aimed at providing improved AVRR-related assistance, including virtual pre-departure counselling and remote psychosocial support.

Donor: Swiss State Secretariat for Migration; German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees; and others


Supporting National Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking

The project aims to support the Government of The Gambia’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons through three elements:

  1. Prevention activities to increase awareness of TiP at the national and community level
  2. Protection services for victims of trafficking and those at risk of trafficking
  3. Prosecution efforts through strengthening the criminal justice system’s capacities to identify and investigate traffickers

Support to beneficiaries—including individuals at risk of trafficking, victims of trafficking, the general public, law enforcement officers and justice institutions—will abide by applicable ethical standards and a human-rights based approach to programming.

Donors: US Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP)

Immigration and Border Management

Enhancing Operational Capacity for Gambian Authorities to Manage Borders

The project aims to enhance the operational capacity of the Government of The Gambia to manage borders through:

  • Improved physical infrastructure, including facilities and equipment, at border posts for effective border management
  • Strengthened migration data collection and analysis through expansion of Border Information Management Systems under deployment

Enhanced institutional capacity through the promotion of inter-agency cooperation to address immigration-related risks and through social mobilization of communities to ensure peaceful coexistence for economic development

Donor: The Government of Japan

Labour Mobility and Human Development (labour migration, migrant training and integration, migration and development)

Safety, Support and Solutions in the Central Mediterranean Route

The project aims to enhance the capacities of government officials, civil society organizations and non-government organizations for migrant protection and the development of livelihood and income generation alternatives. Through research and data analysis, it aims to create an evidence base on the impact of livelihoods and income generation on the intention to migrate irregularly. In enhancing the collective understanding of the drivers of migration, communities will be empowered to identify and design livelihood solutions that can serve as effective alternatives for the youth.

Donors: UK Department for International Development (DFID)

Support to local economic development in The Gambia, Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau.

The overall project objective is to promote safe migration and create alternatives to the irregular migration of youth by fostering employment in communities of origin.

Its three essential components include:

  1. Equipping national and local stakeholders with the necessary tools to link migration to development policies and promote migration sensitive policies
  2. Improving youth employment services and job opportunities in local communities affected by irregular migration
  3. Facilitating diaspora engagement to contribute to youth empowerment and promoting local alternatives to irregular migration through skills transfers programmes.


Bridging together youth, diaspora and local authorities for an integrated approach to promote employment and address irregular migration in The Gambia, Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau.

The overall project objective is to promote safe migration and create alternatives to the irregular migration of youth by fostering employment in communities of origin.

Its three essential components include:

  1. Equipping national and local authorities with knowledge and tools on how best to account for migration in local development plans
  2. Empowering youth in origin communities to achieve their livelihood expectations and aspirations, while promoting their access to viable jobs locally and abroad
  3. Facilitating diaspora engagement to contribute to youth empowerment and promoting local alternatives to irregular migration through skills transfers programmes.

Donors: Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS)

Africa Regional Migration Program

The current phase of the Africa Regional Migration Program focuses on two priority areas: (i) promoting sustainable, humane migration management; and (ii) preparing countries to respond to migration emergencies.

IOM’s support to the Government of The Gambia includes:

  • Enhancing labour migration governance capacity at the national level and crisis preparedness capacity at local levels
  • Developing a pre-departure training manual for labour migrants and a policy guideline for ethical recruitment, in coordination with the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment

Updating the contingency plans of the Banjul City Council and Kanifing Municipal Council, including through crisis simulation exercise.

Donors: US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM)

Migration Health

Enhancing Gambian Authorities’ Preparedness and Response to COVID-19

The project aims to support the Government of The Gambia’s preparedness and response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. IOM will support response efforts of stakeholders from national, sub-national, and cross-border levels through five key pillars:

  1. Coordination and partnerships
  2. Risk communication and community engagement
  3. Points of entry
  4. Infection prevention and control
  5. Socioeconomic impact and recovery

The interventions are anchored on the IOM Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, which is aligned with the WHO Strategic Preparedness Plan and the UN Framework for the Immediate Socioeconomic Response to COVID-19.

Donors: Swiss State Secretariat for Migration


UK Pre-Departure Tuberculosis Detection Programme (UKTB)

The programme provides migration support services to the United Kingdom (UK) through pre-departure tuberculosis screening. In coordination with a local health clinic, the programme screens all visa applicants intending to stay in the UK for six months or longer. All cases diagnosed with active tuberculosis are referred to the National Tuberculosis Program (NTP) for treatment and monitoring.

In addition, to facilitate family reunification, the programme also conducts anti-fraud measures—such as DNA testing and bio-sampling—at the request of the UK Government. The programme also works in partnership with The Gambia’s national health system to build national and local capacities in migration health management.

Communication for Development

Migrants as Messengers

A growing body of research suggests that potential migrants are generally distrustful of information campaigns on irregular migration and that they are more likely to believe information obtained through trusted sources.

Implemented regionally across seven countries for its second phase, Migrants as Messengers addresses this distrust by encouraging youth in migration-prone communities in West Africa to adopt new attitudes and behaviors on migration through peer-to-peer messaging. The campaign is carried out directly by returned migrants who share with their communities and families their experiences, making their stories accessible to local decision-makers, community leaders, religious leaders, and potential migrants.

Donors: The Kingdom of the Netherlands

IOM X The Gambia

First launched in Asia in 2014 and adapted to West Africa in 2019, IOM X is IOM’s global campaign aimed at encouraging safe migration. Impact assessments have shown that the campaign’s audiences adopted more positive attitudes and behaviours, helping to protect themselves from exploitation.

Identifying a need for accurate information on safe migration and local opportunities, as well as a desire by community members to actively lead campaigns, IOM X will be replicating this model in The Gambia. Community members in Brikama, West Coast Region, will develop a multimedia campaign to empower young people to make informed migration-related decisions.

Donors: German Federal Foreign Office


Strengthening Communication on Migration in The Gambia

Through this project, IOM aims to contribute to enhanced understanding and capacity among the government, media, and civil society to communicate strategically about migration in The Gambia. This objective will be achieved through a variety of platforms, including:

Implementing a comprehensive training program for government agencies to support government-led strategic communication on migration Strengthening media coverage of migration issues by building the knowledge and skills of journalists Building the capacities of civil society organizations to carry out migration-related advocacy work


Developing the evidence base to inform communication on migration and strengthen migration-related information campaigns.

Donors: EU Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG Home)

Partners: The Government of The Gambia

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Chief of Mission     Fumiko NAGANO
Christopher GASCON     Regional Director
Aissata KANE     Senior Regional Advisor



Contact Us

International Organization for Migration (IOM)
46 Kairaba Avenue
Pipeline PMB 586, Serrekunda

The Gambia

Tel : +220 437 61 54´2