The Senegalese Navy has made a significant announcement, revealing the apprehension of two canoes transporting 416 individuals engaged in irregular emigration. This recent development has pushed the total number of arrested candidates to an astonishing 1,266 in just five days.
Senegal, a country with an estimated population of 16.88 million people, primarily engaged in agriculture, faces a multitude of challenges, including susceptibility to climatic hazards and fluctuations in commodity prices. These factors, coupled with presumed labour demand in Europe, economic insecurity, and low incomes, have been key drivers of emigration from the country.
Some irregular Senegalese migrants also cite political instability and the need to improve their social standing as reasons for leaving. Concerns about the war in Ukraine, a widening fiscal deficit, and increasing government debt have also contributed to the surge in emigration, independent investigations revealed.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has linked this rise in emigration to overall development issues in Senegal.
The discovery of an alternative route, instead of the traditional route of sailing across the Atlantic, which is very dangerous, appears to be both a source of joy and concern. The concern is particularly directed towards the country of destination, as evidenced by the recent appeal from the Italian government to curtail international migration after approximately 5,000 migrants entered the small island of Lampedusa in a single day. Senegalese citizens are now choosing alternative routes, such as traveling through Nicaragua, a small Central American country that doesn’t require a visa permit for entry. Social media has been flooded with videos showing groups of Senegalese at Dakar Airport, eager to leave with a simple arrival permit. These aspiring migrants document their journeys, which often involve perilous treks through forests, river crossings, and night time travels, culminating in images of American skyscrapers. The success stories of these journeys further encourage others to follow suit, as reported by Le Monde.
In June of this year, the Senegalese government unveiled a 10-year plan aimed at tackling illegal migration. The plan focuses on prevention, border management, measures against traffickers, support for and protection of migrants, and the return and reintegration of irregular migrants. The goal is to “drastically reduce the phenomenon by 2033” through the newly launched National Strategy to Combat Irregular Migration (SNLMI, as reported by local media. Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome is quoted as saying this. As the number of migrants rises, so do the number of deaths. Senegal has witnessed several tragedies, with the most recent involving the deaths of 16 migrants when their boat sank off Dakar. On July 12, another boat capsized near Saint-Louis, resulting in at least 14 fatalities (African news).
The Senegalese Navy has reported that among the 1,266 arrested, there were 24 women and 16 minors found among the passengers, and they have been handed over to the relevant state authorities. The question remains: does this solution adequately address the issue of increasing desperate emigration from the West African coastal state?
Unfortunately, studies and personal accounts of deportees have revealed that international migrant workers remain especially vulnerable to low wages, unsafe working conditions, discrimination, and trafficking, increasing the likelihood that these emigrants may not achieve their goal of finding greener pastures outside of Senegal.