The Western Migration Route is Overheating, and Causes are Sometimes Surprising

Irish Naval personnel from the LÉ Eithne (P31) rescuing migrants as part of Operation Triton. ( Photo by Irish Defence Forces / Wikimedia Commons)

A new short video report by German media outlet DW.com (Deutsche Welle) shows a growing number of Senegalese men choose to be smuggled via the western migration route, along the Atlantic Ocean to the Canary Islands. Their ambition is not fuelled by the image of a “better” life – they have a much more interesting motif of undertaking the demanding, and oftentimes deadly journey.

According to the report foreign vessels have increased their fishing activity on the coastal area of the African nation, thus leaving fisherman without sufficient catch.

Saliou Seye, a fisher described his situation in detail. In his words, he is solely responsible for his family’s daily needs, but he cannot find any stock even five kilometers into the open waters.

“That’s why I’m looking for other ways to support them, even if I have to do things that are illegal,” he concludes, contemplating on trying to legally reach shore inside the European Union for the third time after two unsuccessful previous attempts.

Due to bad weather, thousands of people had perished at sea on the so-called Western route that basically goes from different African territories to the first European point of access which is usually the Canary Islands. Migrants depart mainly from Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia and embark on dangerous journeys along the West African coast to reach the Canary Islands.

The distance covered ranges from less than 100 kilometers from the nearest point on the African coast to more than 1600 kilometers from Gambia.

In 2006 over 31 000 irregular migrants arrived in the Canaries. This was known as the Cayucos crisis, named after the popular fishing boats from Senegal and Mauritania.

In the following years the number of irregular arrivals dropped to less than 1 500 arrivals per year. After a significant increase in 2020 and 2021, the number of irregular arrivals decreased again in 2022, according to statistics by the European Union. In spite of that, just at the end of July, at least 227 migrants were rescued off Spain’s Canary Islands after a dinghy sank, killing around 30 migrants.

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