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Spain Searches for Migration Solution in Gambia, Guinea Bissau

  • Phuong Tran

Spain's minister of labor, Jesus Caldera, arrives in West Africa Wednesday for talks with officials in Gambia and Guinea Bissau. The purpose of the trip is to explain Spain's proposals to fight clandestine migration from West Africa and its plans to help reduce poverty in West African nations. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

For many of the African migrants who seek to get into Spain, the most dangerous part of the trip, the sea journey, begins on the shores of Gambia and Guinea Bissau.

Jesus Caldera's visit is intended to explain Spanish proposals whose goal is to reduce the number of illegal migrants from both countries. According to Nicolas El Busto, the Spanish Embassy's representative in Gambia's capital, Banjul, the proposals are in the interest of Spain and the people of West Africa.

"He is going to announce measures of cooperation between both governments. The creation of technical schools. He is going to announce the [granting of employment] contracts of some Gambian nationals in Spain so they can go there legally," said El Busto.

Mr. Caldera's visit is not the first initiative Spain has made regarding Gambia. The two countries signed an agreement last October to reduce illegal migration from its shores and to fight poverty in Gambia, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Musa Camara is a Gambian trader who has lived in Spain for the past 17 years, but he frequently travels back to Gambia, where he has helped establish an organization to enable young Gambians to find work at home.

He says he co-founded a non-profit organization, African Solidarity for Action in Gambia, last year because he saw how many African youth were leaving Gambia and other African countries, thinking they would find paradise in Spain. Camara says most have found death at sea or detention in Spain instead.

He says he employs youth through his export business. He adds opportunities to work in Gambia would help convince youth from attempting the often suicidal sea escape.

In an effort to prevent illegal migration, the European Union agency Frontex funds surveillance efforts in a number of West African countries. But the deputy representative for the Office of International Migration in West Africa, Laurent Deboeck, says Gambia has not signed with Frontex, leaving its waters largely unguarded.

Spanish officials estimate close to 10,000 migrants without papers reached Spain last year, mostly by sea. But they say it is hard to estimate the numbers who died at sea.

After his stop in Gambia, Caldera continues on to Guinea Bissau.

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