More than 20,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, have arrived on the Spanish Canary Islands this year. The Canary Islands, specifically the island of Tenerife, have become one of the main EU gateways for African migrants, following a crackdown on migration to the north African Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in 2005. The migrants, from Senegal and Mauritania, arrive almost daily in unsafe fishing boats. The trip of more than 1,000km lasts from 7 to 10 days. Estimates of the number that have died while trying to reach the Canary Islands are around 1.000 or even 3000. Fishing is not a good business anymore in Hann, 1 hour by car from Dakar, because of depletion of the stock. The waters of the heavily polluted bay, whose immediate hinterland is the industrial zone of Dakar, are grey and full of rubbish and bacteria. The Muslim community, mainly illiterate, lacks a reliable supply of clean drinking water and a proper drainage and sewage treatment system.
Many young inhabitants have headed to the Canary Islands. Others remaining in this village struck by poverty are saving money to start the trip. Some of them donít pay much as their knowledge of how to guide a boat and what to do to combat seasickness is a good asset for the mafias. After buying the ëcayucoí, (Senegalese brightly painted wooden canoe), the brand new 40 horse power engines, the GPS and some fuel, food and water, they ask a ëMaraboutí (religious-magical leader) how he foreseens the trip and the best day to depart. Many children under 18 years are also taking the risk. The Spanish law obliged to care for and educate the minors that arrive illegally until they reach the age of 18.
Inundated by a flood of Africans, in the Spanish Canary Islands, Madrid has called on its European partners to do more to help halt the influx. Frontex, the European Agency for the Management of External borders, supports Spain by coordinating the assets (staff, vessels and planes) that other Member States voluntarily offer to help. The personnel strength of FRONTEX is currently 68 persons (5 non Spanish are working at the local coordination centre in Santa Cruz de Tenerife) and the budget for 2006 is 15.7 Million Euros.