A Senegalese man sits on the deck of a Spanish fishing boat | Photo: picture alliance/J. Fergo
A Senegalese man sits on the deck of a Spanish fishing boat | Photo: picture alliance/J. Fergo

The West African country Senegal spent Friday, November 13 mourning more than 400 youths who died at sea hoping to migrate to Europe. The campaign, diffused on Twitter, asked followers to post a photo which stated: "A future drowned in the oceans. Senegal cries for its youth."

On Friday, November 13, young people organized a Twitter campaign for an unofficial day of national mourning to draw attention to the number of young Senegalese who have drowned on their way to Europe.

Last month, at least 140 Senegalese drowned in a shipwreck, and organizers of the campaign criticized the authorities in the country "over their response to the disaster and for failing to deter migration by creating enough jobs at home," according to reporting from the news agency foundation Thomson Reuters.

In total this year, several hundred young people have attempted to make the crossing from West Africa to the Spanish Archipelago of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. According to Thomson Reuters, in September 2020 "14 boats carrying 663 migrants left Senegal, and about a quarter of them ran into difficulties or were shipwrecked."

480 seconds of mourning

One of the organizers, a man called Pape Demba (Pape D.) on Twitter, asked his followers to observe 480 seconds, or eight minutes of silence for all those young Senegalese who had drowned en route to Europe at 8pm Senegalese time.

Demba, who according to Thomson Reuters is 28-years-old and lives in the capital, Dakar, told the foundation that "as a Senegalese youth, I feel crushed."

As well as encouraging groups all over the country to take some time to think of everyone, he also set up a separate Twitter account, @221Help, where job advertisements and people’s requests for employment are posted.

According to Thomson Reuters, Demba has already helped "a handful of people find work or internships."

'Creating a movement'

Demba told Thomson Reuters that his aim was "to really create a movement to take our future into our own hands, because I don't want to count anymore on this government which is incapable of creating jobs."

Thomson Reuters said that Senegal’s government has not yet provided a response, even though they had been asked to comment on the issue.

'Departures and deaths continue to rise'

No official data is available yet for the month of October, but the UN Migration Agency IOM, said that "departures and deaths [on the way to the Canary Islands] continued to rise." The humanitarian organization Alarm Phone told Thomson Reuters that it had "registered 480 people dead or missing in the last two weeks of October from boats that left Senegal, including those killed in the shipwreck that triggered Friday’s day of mourning."

Alarm Phone pointed out in their tweet that migrants "only chose" the route from West Africa or Morocco to Spain because the "shorter migration routes have been closed down."

Opposition denounce government indifference

According to the French international broadcaster rfi, members of the political opposition in Senegal like Ousmane Sonko have also denounced what they described as the Senegalese authorities' "indifference" to the deaths.

rfi said that most of the boats which had attempted the crossing since October had set off from the north of the country, near Dakar. Their reporter in Soumbédioune spoke to fishermen who said they had often thought about attempting the crossing.

The fishermen told the reporter that the cost of crossing was about 600 euros, and that life was becoming more and more difficult for fishermen, who were trying to compete for catches with big Chinese and other international trawlers.

With Thomson Reuters and rfi


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