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CHALLENGES 2005-2006: Senegal Stemming Migration Flood to Europe

Abdou Faye

DAKAR, Dec 23 2005 (IPS) - More than three months after his forced repatriation from Morocco, Mamdou Diop, 28, still harbours bitter memories of his odyssey toward Europe.

Diop was one of many trying, by force, to reach Europe from Ceuta and Mellila, two Moroccan enclaves under Spanish control. Last September, the two colonies were invaded by hundreds of African immigrants, hoping to start a new life in Europe.

Images of hordes of Africans storming the fences around Ceuta and Melilla were transmitted around the world. Fourteen of them were killed in those assaults. Most of the migrants were from Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria.

Now that he is back with his family in Senegal, Diop is having trouble recovering from his failed attempt to make his fortune in Europe after so many setbacks.

”The smugglers at the Spanish-Moroccan border who we trusted ripped us off and abandoned us to our fate. So, the only choice we had was to get in, by force, or go back home and become the butt of jokes,” Ousmane Ngom, who was also repatriated from Morocco, told IPS.

Ngom has returned to his previous trade as a ”bana-bana”, a street merchant, at the Sandaga Market in Dakar, one of the major trading centres in the Senegalese capital.

The official rate of unemployment in Senegal is 14.66 percent, according to the Ministry of Technical and Professional Training.

Ngom, who left Dakar six years earlier for Europe to join his brothers in Italy, returned home, penniless, on a special aircraft chartered by the Moroccan government on Oct. 10.

The returnees consisted of 1,121 Senegalese aboard eight planes, 1,135 Malians on seven, 60 Gambians, 93 Guineans and 129 Cameroonians aboard one aircraft, and two Burkinabes and two Nigerians on a regular flight, according to the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior.

The repatriation of Senegalese from Morocco prompted the Dakar government to initiate a programme called ‘Emigrant Return to Agriculture’.

Under the programme, members will get 7,000 dollars between the time they get started to the time they sell their crops, all these within six months.

The implementation details of the programme are still being worked out by the government. But analysts in Dakar are wondering if these youth, who have become accustomed to adventure and ”attracted to the bright lights” of the west, will be willing to work the often parched fields of Africa with rudimentary tools.

The programme seeks to empower youth ”to earn a decent living and help reach agricultural diversification goals set by the government within its agricultural policy”, Habib Sy, the Senegalese Minister of Agriculture and Water Supply, explained to IPS..

Repatriated Senegalese interested in this programme will be organised into ten groups of 50. Each team will be in charge of 100 hectares of prime land, and given agricultural tools.

During the first year of the project, they will also be given seeds and fertiliser.

Each group will be trained by a French volunteer. The programme also will provide for the construction of a small apartment for the French volunteer trainer and a four-wheel all terrain vehicle and two small motorcycles for the team to make them more mobile.

The programme will start in Dec. 2006, the government says. ”Through this programme, we want to show the countries that repatriated our people, their citizens, and also the European countries that we can manage on our own. We are not looking for development partners for the programme,” said Sy, when launching the project in November.

Sy said Senegal would not solicit financial aid from donor organisations. But that it will use the technical expertise of a foreign volunteer.

Most of those who will take part in the programme know almost nothing about agriculture. As a result, the government has decided to finance their training through an initial fund of about 200,000 dollars.

Mali, another West African country concerned about the repatriation of its citizens from Morocco, has set up a National Agency for Youth Employment and a National Fund for Youth Employment. Mali has not yet made public how much the two projects will cost.

Reputed as great travellers, there are more than three million Senegalese migrants throughout the world, according to the Ministry of Exterior, created in 2000. And they contribute to the country’s wealth through remittances home.

Senegalese eking a living in the diaspora transfer nearly 600 million dollars annually to their families back home. These transfers take place through regular banking circuits or sometimes through alternate routes, such as the travellers network.

To combat illegal adventures, Dakar and Paris are working to set up funding for Senegalese living in France who would like to invest in their homeland.

Senegal is also planning to create a programme with Italy where Senegalese living there could receive financing of up to 80,000 dollars.

But analysts say these solutions, which are still at the initial stage, will not be enough to stem the flood of young people to the west as long as the political and economic situation at home is characterised by high unemployment, poverty, instability and conflict.

Illegal immigration is a global phenomenon which has become problematic throughout the world since it generates substantial profits.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), out of 180 million migrants in the world, only 20 to 22 percent are living legally.

According to the IOM, smugglers, who are organised into networks with worldwide connections, pocket some 11 billion dollars from exploiting those desperate to emigrate.

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