By Hamadou Tidiane Sy
Magueye Seck has tried to enter Spain no fewer than 10 times in the past few weeks.
Many of those flown home still aim to get to Europe
Trying to get across the border fence from Morocco into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, the Senegalese citizen has been turned back on each occasion by the Spanish security forces.
For months, his life inside Morocco has been punctuated by a "hide and seek" game with Moroccan security forces, waiting for the right time to attempt a
new raid on the security fences.
"Whoever among us tells you he hasn't seen a friend or companion die is not telling the truth," Magueye says.
He acknowledges that without the generosity of ordinary Moroccan citizens, who offered food and drink, many would have died long ago.
By contrast, he accuses the Moroccan security forces of brutality.
This week, Magueye was among the hundreds of Senegalese citizens deported from Morocco and flown home, after failing in their attempts to storm the fences into Ceuta or Melilla.
Thanks to the good relations between Senegal and Morocco, Senegalese nationals do not need a visa to enter the north African country.
Many Senegalese migrants, desperate to find a way into Europe, have used this route before to enter Spain illegally. Many more still dream of following them.
But now, the forced repatriation has put the spotlight on the issue of illegal immigration, in a country where many families depend on remittances from members who work and live abroad.
For Abdourahmane Kane, an official at the ministry in charge of Senegalese nationals living abroad, the deportations should serve as a wake-up call to all would-be emigrants.
"We have lost a lot of lives on the migration routes, particularly in the Moroccan and Libyan deserts," he told the returnees.
Planes full of migrants have flown to West Africa in the past week
"Clandestine migration is very dangerous."
He urged people rather to "get in touch with government structures to help you find a job here".
Despite this call, many of the young deportees I spoke to say they are willing to go back through the same road, "as soon as the situation gets calm again".
Way of life
With about 2.5m Senegalese citizens living abroad and supporting those left back home, emigration has become a way of life here - some even refer to it as a "life achievement".
Many have lost their friends during their dangerous ordeal
This popular belief makes the problem even more difficult to resolve. Pape Saer Gueye, special adviser to President Abdoulaye Wade on the matter of Senegalese nationals living abroad, says the question requires serious thought and discussion.
"There's also the need to raise the awareness of our countrymen so that when they travel, they get valid travel documents which allow them to settle and work in the host countries," he says.
This will prove a tough battle. Official figures indicate that remittances sent back home by Senegalese immigrants amounted in 2004 to more than 300bn CFA francs (US$500m): almost one-third of the Senegalese budget.
These immigrants, who are scattered all over the world, are quick to show off their legal or illegal earnings as soon as they get home.
So the younger generations grow up with the impression that Europe or the US are indeed the places to go to for a better life - no matter how great the cost or the pain involved in getting there.