Dangerous Pursuits

Now that Morocco has considerably hardened its stance toward African immigrants trying to pass through on their way to Europe, alternative routes have appeared. Ships leave from Nouadhibou in Mauritania, heading toward the Canary Islands, or even from as far as Senegal. The distances they cross are much larger now, and tragic headlines have quickly followed. The latest one comes from The Guardian, which reports that a small yacht appeared on the coast of Barbados this past weekend. Inside were the petrified bodies of eleven young men. They appear to have left from somewhere in Africa, most likely Senegal, and were en route to the Canaries when their ship was lost at sea. In Senegal, all efforts to warn young people of the dangers that lie ahead seem to fall on deaf ears:

But during a radio talk show last week, young Senegalese callers such as Mass were unmoved by tales of death. “Even if it means ending up dead, I’ll leave, I’ll never give up trying, there’s nothing to do here,” he said. “It’s Barsa or Barsakh,” quipped a 22-year-old girl in Woloff, meaning “It’s Barcelona or the hereafter.”

There are a host of reasons for leaving, including high youth unemployment and the reputed success of Senegal’s “Modou, Modou” traders in Europe. “But the biggest problem,” radio manager Oumar Seck Ndiaye told IRIN, “is that people have lost all hope of ever bettering themselves here. So between never and maybe, they choose to take a chance.”

Even the mosque preachers have been telling youngsters not to take a risk, but to no avail.