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Spanish TV Ads Fight African Clandestine Migration


Starting in Senegal, the Spanish government is running television announcements to discourage young Africans from risking their lives on dangerous sea crossings to Spain. Phuong Tran has more from Dakar.

One of the advertisements produced by the Spanish government starts with a close up of a crying mother. Speaking in one of Senegal's national languages, Wolof, she says she has not seen her son for eight months. The scene then moves to a boy lying face down on the rocks, apparently dead.

The 45-second ad ends with the popular Senegalese singer Yossou N'Dour sitting in a boat.

The singer tells viewers that everyone knows the story ends with thousands of destroyed families. He asks the viewer not to risk his life for nothing.

Last year, more than 30,000 boat migrants reached Spain. Spanish officials estimate about six thousand died at sea, but migrants like Ndongo Faye, who are sent back to Africa, say the number is much higher.

Faye lives with dozens of family members in a part of the capital called the city's second airport because of the large number of migrants who leave from its shores.

The 26-year-old says he tried to go to Spain four times in fishing canoes, spending a total of about $3,000. He says he finally made it, but Spanish authorities sent him home after a one-month detention.

After watching an advertisement at a nearby cybercafé, Faye says it will not deter young people determined to leave.

"It is sad because what the mother says and it is true," he said. "She says her son was supposed to be the one who took care of her. But how can he help her with empty pockets? He had to leave. My own father said the same thing to me. He said if I leave and die, who will support him? I replied to him the good Lord will take better care of him than I could."

Laurent de Boeck, with the International Office of Migration for West Africa, says his organization has tried television campaigns against clandestine migration in Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and Niger.

"You know that you cannot reach a certain number of persons," he noted. "You have people who will never listen, because they are persuaded that everything which comes from outside, basically from an organization like ours, or the government, from an NGO, is not true, that they know their success will be [in] migrating."

Former migrant Faye says the Spanish advertisements would work better if they had former migrants sharing personal horror stories at sea.

After losing many friends, Faye says he will stay in Senegal and look for work. He says it would be more helpful if Spain invested the more than $1 million spent on the advertisements to create jobs for young Africans.

The Spanish government recently began employing hundreds of Senegalese workers on one-year work visas. Spain has signed agreements with Gambia and Guinea Bissau to open job training centers, promising to eventually hire some of the centers' graduates.

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