DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A court in Senegal has sentenced three men to jail terms for pushing their sons to migrate by sea to Europe, a trip that led to the death of one, according to local reports.
The three were found guilty of “endangering the lives of others,” and sentenced to two years in prison, with 23 months suspended.
Among those sentenced in the coastal town of Mbour Tuesday was Mamadou Lamine Faye, whose teenage son died along the route. Doudou Faye’s father had paid the equivalent of about $450 to a smuggler who was to take him into Spain. The young man was going to try to get to Italy to train as a soccer player, according to local reports.
In testimony, Faye said he never intended to endanger his son’s life, but wanted to find a better future for him. Faye was arrested in November after news of his son’s death at sea.
The two other young men survived and returned to Senegal.
Doudou’s death and the court case have highlighted the renewed traffic of migrants from Senegal, where hundreds of deaths of young illegal migrants were recorded between October and November.
Many in Senegal hope the judge’s ruling may help deter parents from sending their children on the dangerous and long Atlantic route to Europe that has become more popular this year. In recent months, departures have ramped up from the beaches of Dakar, Mbour about 90 kilometers (56 miles) south, and Saint Louis, about 260 kilometers (161 miles) north. Dozens of young men cram into boats called pirogues for the 950 miles long trip to the Spanish Canary Islands. The voyage is dangerous as often engines break down, boats take on water or, in the case of Doudou, passengers become ill.
More than 20,000 people seeking a better life have arrived so far this year in the Spanish archipelago, up from 1,500 in the same period of 2019, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry. At least 500 people have died while attempting to reach the islands that they see as a stepping stone into Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Human rights groups have been warning about the reopening of the Atlantic route to the Canary Islands since late 2019.
Local rights groups in Senegal have been protesting the deaths of what they say are nearly 500 youths who have died at sea in recent months attempting to reach European soil.
The International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants project said it has only been able to confirm the death or disappearance of 160 Senegalese nationals so far this year, but admits their records may be incomplete because of the lack of information collected on the migration route. Those traveling by sea have often been refused visas for European countries but take the risk of a perilous voyage for the chance to earn enough money to support their families back home.
Spain’s foreign minister traveled to Senegal in late November to discuss migration and border cooperation between Spain, the European Union and Senegal.