Senegal cracks down on Europe refugee boats: Will others comply with? | Refugees


In posts up to date nearly every day on social media, Senegal’s navy particulars how its patrol boat, Walo, reroutes vessels filled with refugees making an attempt to get to Europe. Photographs present individuals disembarking from the boats, their faces blurred out: girls in flowing chiffon clothes, barefoot kids, a person carrying an “Mbour Sport Academie” shirt.

Final yr, Senegalese authorities intercepted simply one known boat headed for Europe. However simply within the house of per week this September, more than 600 would-be refugees have been turned again by the nation’s navy, simply as their canoes began inching throughout the turbulent Atlantic on a harmful however well-liked journey.

The surge within the numbers of individuals headed off from the excessive seas highlights how the West African nation – a serious departure level for Senegalese, but in addition Gambians and Malians –  is stepping as much as stem irregular migration flows. Some 1,500 individuals have been transferred to native authorities since Might, Senegal’s navy claims, greater than 95 % of all recorded interceptions in 2022.

Some consultants say this elevated motion might function a mannequin for different African international locations, whose residents now make up half of the highest 10 origin international locations for irregular refugee arrivals in Europe. Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Egypt high the record. “African governments have to take a powerful curiosity and act,” mentioned Linda Adhiambo Oucho, director of the African Migration and Growth Coverage Centre (AMADPOC).

Migration to Europe is just 1 / 4 of motion on the continent, however because the useless pile up within the seas, governments have to step up, Oucho says: “The African Union can use Senegal to indicate greatest practices and encourage a stronger regional method to curbing precarious mobility.”

However others argue that by itself, stopping migration doesn’t handle the underlying causes forcing individuals to maneuver — and that initiatives like Senegal’s might develop into mechanisms for Europe to outsource its problem of limiting refugee arrivals.

Surge in migrant arrivals in EU

Senegal’s efforts, a part of a brand new motion plan on emigration, come as Italy bends below the burden of a surge in arrivals on its coasts. In September, authorities there declared a state of emergency after greater than 5,000 individuals arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa in sooner or later.

Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for the Worldwide Group for Migration (IOM), says sub-Saharan African migrants fleeing Tunisia following a spike in racist assaults make up the majority of the landings. Their journeys, he mentioned, are particularly harmful as a result of they face discrimination from smugglers.

“Sub-Saharan migrants are compelled to navigate on iron boats that are very fragile,” Di Giacomo mentioned, talking from Lampedusa. The iron boats are a brand new phenomenon, utilized by those that can’t pay smugglers sufficient. “After 12 hours they will break in two and folks fall into the water, so we expect there are numerous ghost shipwrecks occurring that nobody is aware of something about. Normally, Tunisians arriving from Tunisia can typically use wood boats that are a bit of safer.”

Greater than 180,000 individuals have arrived in Europe this yr largely by way of the West African Atlantic and Mediterranean sea routes. Over 2,000 individuals are useless or lacking.

On Wednesday, the European Union agreed on a typical migration pact. However to Di Giacomo, the query that international locations have to reply isn’t a lot whether or not individuals ought to migrate, however moderately what secure pathways can be found.

Heavy border safety has been the mainstay of the EU response to this point.

“We have to change the narrative – migration will not be a foul factor,” mentioned Wendy Williams of the Africa Middle for Strategic Research (ACSS). “If international locations checked out find out how to create alternatives or agreed on bilateral visa schemes, they might be capable of higher handle this.”

Italy expanded one such programme this yr. The yearly “Decreto Flussi” scheme, which lays out work visa quotas, will settle for an extra 44,000 seasonal staff from an inventory of non-EU international locations together with Senegal, letting them work in sectors from agriculture to development. The scheme, which is taking purposes till December, would be sure that intending staff have already got a job provide in Italy, and might journey to the nation legally.

Is Europe outsourcing its migration problem?

Though it’s unclear whether or not Senegalese authorities are getting funding from the EU, the bloc has publicised strikes to associate with the nation. Senegal has labored with the Spanish coastal guard to observe transit routes since 2005 and is now in talks to associate with Frontex, the EU border company accused of unlawful pushback of migrants in misery.

In June, the EU introduced it will strengthen border controls with African international locations. By July, Senegal had formally launched its migration motion plan, which had been within the works for years.

The ten-year blueprint goals to higher stop would-be migrants from leaving Senegal utilizing tighter border controls, focusing on smuggling networks and offering safety to migrants already on the transfer. Inside Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome advised reporters the nation must “drastically cut back migration by 2033”.

“The migration plan seems good on paper, nevertheless it’s simply one other manner for the EU to externalise its borders by paying African international locations to do the policing,” mentioned Williams of ACCS. The EU, Williams added, has a popularity for controversial partnerships on border management, together with with Libyan armed teams. A current deal between the EU and Tunisia, the place sub-Saharan migrants have been racially attacked, has already drawn condemnation.

Senegal has entrenched democratic processes, is “extra respectful of human rights, and civil society is stronger”, Williams conceded. However current crackdowns on protests and opposition celebration leaders, in addition to web shutdowns, have smeared Senegal’s popularity as West Africa’s secure democracy.

In August, riots broke out after 60 individuals from the village of Fass Boye died at sea, with younger individuals accusing authorities of responding too late to experiences of a lacking migrant canoe.

Oucho of AMADPOC identified one other fear. The efforts to cease refugees from leaving Senegal by boat coincide with a push by international locations to implement an African Continental Free Commerce Space geared toward selling mobility. “Individuals will at all times transfer and the chance is that after they can’t undergo one pathway, they’ll discover different, maybe extra harmful strategies,” she added. Her worry: If Senegal continues to ramp up border management and others within the area comply with, individuals smugglers are prone to discover different, presumably extra harmful routes.

Regardless of the navy’s efforts, many proceed to take the chance. On Tuesday night, a ship loaded with 280 individuals arrived in the Canary Islands from Senegal.

Consultants say a holistic method to migration must be one the place African international locations act independently of the EU, which they are saying typically places its personal pursuits first.

“The reality is there may by no means be a sustainable strategy to handle migration, however African international locations have to work higher to extend authorized pathways inside Africa,” Oucho mentioned. “Maybe West Africans might transfer to East Africa the place I’m from to share fishing experience and vice versa. When individuals transfer they bring about challenges however additionally they deliver skills.”

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