In Senegal, the recurring tragedies involving clandestine boat journeys bound for the Spanish Canary Islands have sparked growing concern. While Senegalese authorities repatriate some hopeful migrants, others tragically perish at sea or vanish without a trace. On Wednesday, on the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, Senegalese migrant associations united their voices to implore for increased government involvement in addressing this dire issue.
Upon learning of yet another clandestine boat’s departure and subsequent loss of contact with its passengers, Yay Diouf, spokesperson for associations representing families of missing migrants, is inevitably reminded of her own heart-wrenching experience—her son’s ill-fated journey to the Canaries in 2007.
The associations, in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Dakar and the Senegalese Red Cross, are striving to provide support on various fronts. This includes legal assistance to address inheritance matters and declarations of absence, as well as socio-economic support tailored to women and children affected by such losses.
In the coastal town of Thiaroye-sur-Mer on the outskirts of Dakar, Ngary Diop has undergone training in psychological counseling to offer solace to affected families. Reflecting on their efforts, Diop notes, “Many of the mothers were burdened by their troubles. How could they express what lay within them? When we formed this association, we convened weekly to offer support. Now, we’ve managed to uplift their spirits.”
Since 2015, the collaborative efforts have extended aid to around 600 families across four regions in Senegal. Simona Ferrara, the Protection Coordinator at the International Committee of the Red Cross, laments the persistent tragedies, stating, “Regrettably, boats continue to founder, generating uncertainty, anguish, and needs that neither we nor the families can address alone. The state and the authorities must take ownership of this necessity and assist these families in finding their resolutions.”