On a recent morning at a popular beach in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, a fisherman arrived for work to discover a horrific scene. Dead bodies were strewn across the sand, while an unattended, painted wooden boat bobbed in the water. The boat had been carrying migrants hoping to reach Spain but had crashed into underwater rocks, resulting in at least 16 deaths. Eyewitnesses and survivors recount that the boat was being pursued by patrol vessels from Spain and Senegal in near total darkness when it hit the rocks. Local aid groups and officials, including the deputy mayor, confirm that the boat was indeed being chased.
The tragic incident has sparked an investigation by Senegalese officials, who are yet to comment on the matter. A spokesperson for Spain’s interior ministry, however, denies that a Spanish patrol vessel pursued the boat, claiming that they had only alerted the Senegalese authorities to the sinking boat. This unfortunate event is just one in a series of tragedies facing individuals attempting the treacherous journey across the ocean to reach Europe.
European countries have been intensifying their efforts to intercept migrants long before they reach their shores. Senegal, in particular, has implemented measures to restrict migration by boat and has received resources, training, and high-tech equipment from European countries to help in the fight against illegal migration. However, the recent increase in patrols has led to more dangerous situations. Aid groups and local organizations condemn these aggressive efforts, with demands for more legal pathways for migration.
Eyewitnesses describe the horror of the incident on the beach in Dakar, less than 50 yards from shore. As bodies floated in the water, navy vessels with floodlights attempted to rescue struggling people. Some managed to reach the shore and run away, while others were pulled out of the water. One survivor reported that the boat was being chased, and the captain was desperately trying to navigate towards the beach to avoid arrest. The witness also noted the presence of a white man speaking Spanish at the scene, who promptly approached the police.
The bay where the incident occurred is well-known to fishermen but difficult to see at night due to underwater volcanic rocks. The deep waters around the boat’s location suggest that the dead victims were unable to swim. The deputy mayor of the area confirmed that the boat had been pursued by patrol vessels, but it is unclear which country they were from.
Following the incident, a local organization offered assistance in identifying the deceased through photographs and descriptions provided by families searching for their missing loved ones. It is reported that the increase in patrols has pushed migrants to use lesser-known launching spots, which can be more dangerous. Survivors claimed their boat departed from Thiaroye, a suburb of Dakar.
While Spain’s Interior Ministry claims there has been a decline in illegal arrivals to Spain due to bilateral cooperation between Senegal and Spain, many Senegalese farmers and fishermen may still be enticed to migrate as climate change threatens their livelihoods. The haunting sight of the painted boat half-submerged in the water serves as a haunting reminder of the perils of migrating by sea.
Even fishermen like Ibrahim Pape Ndour, who helped in the search for bodies, harbor dreams of going to Europe. He states, “Bring a boat right now, you’ll see. We’d all go. Death is easy.” These words reflect the desperation and risks migrants are willing to take for a chance at a better life, despite the dangers that lie ahead.