Young people in Senegal held a national day of mourning on Friday for 140 migrants killed in a shipwreck as they headed to Europe last month, sparking debate about unemployment and migration in the West African country.
There has been a significant rise this year in the number of migrants taking rickety boats from West Africa to the Canary Islands, a Spanish territory, in search of better opportunities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. In September alone, 14 boats carrying 663 migrants left Senegal and about a quarter of them ran into difficulties or was shipwrecked, the IOM said. It has not yet compiled data for October but said departures and deaths continued to rise.
“Misinformation from smugglers leaves many people unaware of the realities and risks of irregular migration,” said Bakary Doumbia, the agency’s chief of mission in Senegal. “The government is making many efforts at the moment to prevent such tragedies from happening again. Together, we are working on raising awareness,” he said.
Pape Demba, 28, A Senegalese youth after expressing himself on social media saying “I feel crushed”. He created a Twitter account, @221Help, to share job announcements and requests for employment, already managing to help a handful of people find work or internships, he said. “My objective is really to create a movement to take our future into our own hands, because I don’t want to count anymore on this government which is incapable of creating jobs,” he said in an interview.
Unemployment stood at 16.9% last year in the nation of 16 million people, where more than half the population is under the age of 20, according to the official statistics agency. Traditional livelihoods such as farming and fishing are no longer viable for the growing population, and youth flocking to crowded cities have found that jobs are scarce there too.