While the majority of African migration is circular, i.e. between African countries, many also dream of reaching Europe. To achieve this dream, these migrants risk their lives by squeezing onto unsafe and overcrowded boats. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 22,000 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean between 2000 and 2014.
To this must be added the nearly 9,000 further victims over the last two (particularly deadly) years alone.
And yet, despite the danger, thousands continue to attempt the perilous journey each year. What drives them to do this?
War, climate change and poverty are often cited as reasons for this forced migration.
In Senegal, Equal Times went in search of fishermen, a group that frequently attempts such journeys, to find out what was at the root of their distress.
Following the droughts of the 1980s, Senegal’s agricultural sector was in crisis. Many people moved to the coast to take up fishing, which led to a considerable increase in the number of fishermen and canoes in Senegalese waters. At the same time, property speculation and the expansion of Dakar led to much farmland being expropriated, thus further exacerbating many households’ dependence on fishing.
The final blow for fishermen came, however, with the signing of fisheries agreements with the European Union and other countries, particularly in Asia, which placed great pressure on the sector and led to the depletion of stocks.
In addition to European fishing boats active in Senegalese waters, 60 per cent of the fish caught and landed along the Senegalese coast is destined for Europe. The presence of these foreign actors on the market has caused fish prices to rise and has reduced the diversity of species available for Senegalese consumers. And yet fish is an essential foodstuff that guarantees the protein intake of a large number of West African inhabitants.
The stories told by these fishermen, migrants and returnees, possible future migrants and relatives of migrants, bear witness to an ongoing situation in which the action taken by Senegal and the European Union has only shifted the problem. Continue Reading