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Senegal Tries to Stem Irregular Migration


The Senegalese government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are launching an information campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of irregular migration. The campaign, which is run by IOM, will use radio, television and newspapers in Senegal to get out the message. Lisa Schlein has details from IOM headquarters in Geneva.

Every year, thousands of migrants from Senegal and other West African countries use smugglers networks to go to Europe in search of a better life.

Officials at the International Organization for Migration say nearly 32,000 irregular migrants arrived on the coast of the Canary Islands last year. Those, they say, are the ones that survived. They say many others drowned at sea.

IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya says that despite the dangers, many people are desperate to leave their impoverished lives behind them.

"There are places in Senegal, not least along the coast, where you can go into a village and there are almost no young men left," she noted. "The village population is entirely women, elderly and children and very, very few men. And, the women have no idea, many of them, where their husbands, brothers, fathers, sons are because they have heard no news of them and it could be that they are among the many casualties who have drowned off the coast of the Canary Islands in their bid to try to get to Europe."

Just this week, a wooden boat carrying about 100 African migrants capsized near one of the Spanish Canary Islands. About 50 of the migrants drowned while waiting to be rescued.

Although incidents such as this are a frequent occurrence, Pandya says young African men continue to pay large sums of money to smuggling networks to get them to Europe. She says $1,000 or more will book passage on an overcrowded boat that is not seaworthy.

Pandya says the main aim of the campaign is to stem irregular migration through a combination of means. For example, she says, the campaign will inform potential migrants of legal methods of migration.

She says the authorities also are planning to create opportunities for Senegalese youth to improve their lives at home.

"It is not necessarily about creating jobs," she added. "It is actually about providing the right skills to the youth so that they can get jobs or that they can actually set up businesses through training and looking at investment opportunities. That is the way forward often… If you can help your citizens create businesses, they will then in turn create jobs. So, there is a domino effect."

Pandya says migrants who have been returned to Senegal and potential migrants will both be able to take advantage of these income generating opportunities.