At least a dozen African migrants drowned when their boat sank
overnight off the coast of Gabon. Some analysts say such tragedies
will continue if EU policy towards Africa is not modified. From our
West Africa and Central bureau in Dakar, Brent Latham has more.
craft sank near Libreville, Gabon, leading to the drowning deaths of at
least 12 of the migrants. The bodies of the victims began to wash up
on a beach of the seaside capital.
No survivors have been
found, making it impossible to determine the exact circumstances that
led to the accident or the direction and destination of those on
board. Reports said that an identification document from Ghana was
found with the bodies.
Ghana's Interior Ministry said this might have been a case of West Africans trying to migrate to Gabon.
Interior Minister Andre Mba Obame says there are 400,000 illegal West
African migrants looking for work in oil-rich, but impoverished Gabon,
which has a total population of just 1.3 million.
When some of these migrants do not find steady work, they many times reverse course and try equally dangerous trips to Europe.
such as the boat sinking off Libreville have become relatively common
in recent years, as Sub-Saharan Africans attempt challenging journeys
to Europe by sea. The boats used usually are not designed for high
seas or the number of people sometimes packed aboard them.
Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said last week
that the number of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe is
smaller than sometimes reported. Spokesman Jean-Phillipe Chauzy was
quoted as saying "it is estimated there are tens of thousands of West
Africans who enter European countries illegally each year, not the
hundreds of thousands that is regularly stated."
But the danger of traveling the open sea means that many who attempt the journey never arrive.
political analyst Boubacar Gueye says that as long as the economic
conditions in Africa remain difficult, the journeys, and deaths, will
continue. He says it is poverty that is causing Africans to attempt
the journey. He added that most of the would-be immigrants are young.
suggested that the European Union has a role to play in solving the
problem. He said he thinks the solution is for Africa and Europe to
work together to see how to ease the African crisis and to improve the
conditions of life in Africa.
The solution, Gueye said, should
be proactive and not reactive. He pointed to EU initiatives that
involve patrolling coastal waters and returning irregular immigrants as
solutions that would have little effect in the long run.
Gueye says addressing the root causes of poverty is more important.
Senegal analyst, Babacar Justin N'diaye, says expectations are high
that something can be done with France taking over the rotating EU
In speeches about European-African relations,
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he would like ties to be
radically changed. Some of his projects though, such as granting visas
only to educated Africans or creating a new union between Europe and
north Africa, have raised skepticism among many analysts in Sub-Saharan
Africa that any effective policy change will come out of the French