“We knew they would let them die.”

“We knew they were going to die, we always knew because this is our daily life at the border.” On June 21, more than 60 families were waiting for the phone. Their loved ones were on an inflatable boat in the middle of the Atlantic. For twelve hours the migrants did not stop asking for help. Meanwhile, Spain and Morocco were negotiating over who would get immunity. The Spanish state handed it over to Rabat, which took half a day to reach. The boat sank and 39 people died in this tragedy. These include a four year old child.

Latest Walking Borders Report, 2023 right to life monitoring, not only reveals that the Canary Islands remain the deadliest frontier on the planet with 6,007 deaths a year. This document compiles the obstacles faced by families searching for their dead on the Atlantic route. It also sheds light on some of the causes of these tragedies, including lack of coordination among states.

As an example of this, the group points to the night of June 21. The Superior Prosecutor’s Office of the Canary Islands has reported the shipwreck to the Deanery of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and has demanded that an investigation be conducted to determine whether the crime of dereliction of duty to provide relief was committed. “That night was terrible. We called all the time, we begged them to save their lives, but they let them die, as has happened many times,” a spokesperson for the expatriate community says in the report.

Some maritime rescue recordings revealed how Spain employed Morocco to rescue this boat, despite the skepticism shown by the rescue aircraft. He insisted to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Las Palmas that the waters in which the barge was operating were Spanish search and rescue waters. However, the Coordination Center insisted that, due to its proximity to the occupied Sahara, it was a Moroccan territory. Spain did not take action, although a rescue ship was an hour away from the Zodiac in danger.

Caminendo Fronteras has condemned that Salvamiento Marítimo has “stigmatized and criminalized” up to “five times” the data presented by social organizations and families about the location of drifting boats. “This is a threat to people’s lives.” Bad weather, overcrowded boats and conditions at departure points (beaches with complex terrain) also cause fatal accidents.

Remembrance of the Senegalese dead

In 2023, the route connecting Senegal to El Hierro reached an important role. Senegalese nationalities were the majority of those who reached the islands, but at least 3,176 victims survived the journey. In transit from the country to North Africa, Senegalese suffer “serious human rights violations”. Sometimes, they are eventually returned to their country and there is a huge stigma around them. “The returnee is a failure. “At least the dead man lost his life because it is God’s will,” a Senegalese social organization said.

The political and social instability that the region is experiencing is one of the main reasons for Senegalese migration to Europe. The lack of resources in the fishing sector is also exacerbated by the presence of ships coming from China and Europe. Not only departures increased in 2023. Apart from this, the disappearance of ships in the Atlantic. “We report disappearances every week. There are canoes that are on their way to Europe, but there have also been several arrests by the authorities. People migrate and this discussion about the dangers of migration is of no use in migration,” says a fisherman from the Senegalese community.

Families are worried about the migration of youth. “There are many minors who have come forward to demonstrate, to protest because politics leaves no future for them,” Senegalese activists say. The only solution they find is to board a canoe. The largest number of children aged eight to seventeen are on the boats arriving in the Canary Islands. He added, “We try to convince them to stop, but they don’t want to hear it.”

In the country, grief support projects have been created with the aim of “naming grief”. “Without the body the wound will not close,” explains one imam. These practices also occurred with the so-called Kayuko crisis in 2006. Senegal has a long history of deaths and disappearances that “have left a collective imprint on the country.” “There is no data on dead people from that time, but in the neighborhood you can see orphans who have already grown up. We want the state to compile statistics on those who have left and disappeared, but this is impossible,” activists in the country are reported to have said.

“My other children told me I had to mourn. I did it to make them happy, but I’m still waiting, I won’t stop doing it. I feel deep in my heart that he is alive, that my child is alive. A mother always feels for her son,” says the mother of a missing person.

false information for money

During the second half of 2023, departures from Mauritania increased. Migrants travel in wooden and fiber canoes smaller than those in Senegal. This journey is undertaken not only by citizens of Mauritania, but also by people from the rest of the continent such as Senegalese and Malians.

Caminando Fronteras warns that there are people in this country who try to take advantage of the desperation of families by providing false information in exchange for money. “They have been duped into believing that their loved ones are still alive,” the report said. The group points to the absence of transparency and clarity on the part of the authorities as an element that contributes to the spread of false information affecting families.

Likewise, it defends the importance of families receiving assistance. On 27 October, a family contacted Caminando Fronteras and said that his son and nephew left Mauritania on 10 October with 60 other people. “They called families giving them misleading information about the possibility that the boys had already arrived in the Canary Islands, but without providing any reliable information,” the document includes.


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