Senegal: an exploited country from which everyone wants to leave

2 min
Repair of a boat in the port of Saint Louis, Senegal

Good journalism is that which goes to the heart of the matter and tries to explain the causes of complex phenomena such as African immigration to Europe. That is why the ARA has sent two journalists to Senegal, Francesc Milllan and Pere Tordera, to get a closer look at the reasons that lead thousands of people to risk their lives crossing the ocean to reach the Canary Islands, the gateway to their dream of Europe. The first conclusion is that the pandemic has worsened the economic situation of the countries in the region and has exponentially increased the desire of the younger generations to leave the country: "Barça ou barsax", Barcelona or death, is their cry for survival.

In 2020, the number of arrivals multiplied from 1,400 to 23,000 people, which led to the saturation of reception centres and controversy over the treatment of migrants. Many of them, however, will never be lucky enough to even pass through one of these centres and will die at sea. The testimony of the survivors, who explain how people die of thirst and are forced to throw their bodies into the sea, is terrifying. So is the drama of parents, who wake up every morning with the fear that one of their children has left home to throw themselves into the sea at dawn. The key is that they see no future in their country.

The cases of the fishermen, who have seen their catches drop alarmingly because the country's government has sold massive amounts of fishing rights to European and Asian powers, are particularly telling. Large ships from China, but also from France, Portugal and Spain, are exploiting the African coasts and condemning their inhabitants to poverty. Where there used to be abundant and quality fish, now there are only fish of little value, such as sardines and others. Tuna, cod, grouper and barracuda are taken by foreign ships. And the same is happening with agriculture. European companies have taken over the fields to produce, for example, watermelons on a large scale and are destroying traditional agriculture. Companies from the former metropolis, France, control the infrastructure and other sectors.

The perception of Senegalese youngsters is that the country does not belong to them, and that the only way left for them to try to have a better life is to take the leap to Europe, from where they get the false image that it will be easy for them to help the families they leave behind. And the risk of a traumatic death in the middle of the sea does not scare them. Hope, as is so often the case in the history of humanity, overcomes fear.

The reports should make us reflect on what kind of relationship we want to have with Africa. What we can't expect is for European companies to take all the profits and for people to not want to leave. As one of the testimonies says: "They want our fish, but they don't want us". And the only thing that is clear is that as long as Senegal does not offer a future to its citizens, they will continue to risk their lives to come here.