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Malians Deported to Senegal Waiting to Return Home

More than 400 African migrants deported from Spain's Canary Islands arrived in Senegal early this week. A number of Senegalese were on board, but dozens of those sent back to Senegal were not Senegalese. A group of nearly three dozen confused Malian migrants were sent to Dakar to contact their embassy to get home. Jordan Davis caught up with them and filed this VOA report.

When Souleymane Doumdia got on a wooden boat headed for Spain's Canary Islands, he left his studies to become a school teacher.

He says he imagined that by working hard in Europe he might be able to make the equivalent of $600 a month. That, he says, is more than 10 times what he would make as a teacher in Mali.

Doumdia and 30 of his fellow travelers sat under a wide shade tree, not in Europe but in Dakar, across from the Malian embassy where they spent the night.

Their journey began a month ago, when, after a long road trip to northern Mauritania, the men set sail for the Canaries. But after several weeks in a migrants' camp, they were sent back on a plane Sunday to the northern Senegalese city of Saint-Louis.

The group of Malians say they were sad to hear they would not have a new life in Europe, and stunned to learn they were being deported to a country that is not theirs.

Moussa Camara says from the time they landed in the Canary Islands, Spanish authorities repeatedly classified them as Senegalese, despite their protests to the contrary.

To avoid a quick deportation, migrants traveling to Spain typically do not bring identity papers with them. Spanish officials say they are often overwhelmed with the job of identifying the nationality of the crush of migrants arriving in the Canaries.

Waiting to return to Bamako, Camara says going home will not be easy. To pay the $2,000 to a smuggler, he says he had to borrow from many friends and family.

Camara says even if they do not ask him to pay the money back, he says he dreads the shame of returning empty-handed.