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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Visa plea for African migrants
The arrival of boatloads of African immigrants to the Canary Islands is a sorry sight for Ghanaian businessman Tomas Doe, 51.

He has lived on the island of Tenerife for 14 years and has a boat maintenance business in Los Cristianos. He is president of the Sikaman Association for the island's Ghanaian community which has about 35 members.

Tomas Doe
Mr Doe says Africans cannot be blamed for wanting to get to Europe

The situation is a disgrace.

I'm ashamed as a black man to see my people in this way.

The problem is that Europe will not give Africans visas. If they could go by plane they would not have to resort to this.

I have been living in Europe for 20 years - 14 in the Canary Islands.

Before the European Union countries created joint policies, many African countries could rely on trade with former colonial powers. Now that has ended, the local currency suffers and trade with Europe is expensive.

But television and events like the Paris-Dakar rally tempt young Africans to want to go to the West.

These are young guys, they see the bikes, the computers, the internet and they are attracted.

They cannot get visas - even to go to watch the World Cup - so they prefer to gather their money together and buy a cayuco (fishing boat).

Bodies

The first group arrived, no problem, the second - then they all started to come.

Tomas Doe
I've been here 14 years but some people think I've just arrived and ask how did I come?

It is a real shame because many have died on their way to Europe. Nobody can say how many have died trying as we only see the bodies that come ashore.

A friend from Ghana who works in Senegal called me to say he had paid for his daughter, Linda Peter, 25, to come by boat.

His business of salting fish to send to Ghana had collapsed because all the fisherman had gone - they had either sold their boats or driven them over to the Canary Islands.

He could not get a visa so his daughter made the trip to Tenerife - nine days at sea in dreadful conditions, then she was held at the police station for five days before being transferred to the centres.

I visited her and she said they do little more than sleep. They are allowed out for a short time each day then are taken back underground.

I tried asking the Red Cross and a lawyer what I could do to get her out, but once she was in the centre it was too late. She has now been transferred to a centre in Fuertaventura.

No respect

Spain has created this problem for itself. It had a deal with Morocco to keep its borders secure and gave them money to look after the immigrants that arrived there - but they just bussed them out to the desert and left them.

If two white men and one black man are selling things in the street, the black man will be asked for his papers

It could cause problems in the future.

When people talk about an immigration problem they only think of black men.

If two white men and one black man are selling things in the street, the black man will be asked for his papers.

I'm not saying they are racist but they have to be fair.

I've been here 14 years but some people think I've just arrived and ask how did I come? Did I come by cayuco?

Now that it is on TV everywhere the children will see it and things will stick in their minds.

When they see black people they will think they came by cayuco.

The EU does not respect Africa - and Africa's leaders just go there to beg.

The EU should deal more with the African Union and regional blocs like Ecowas to help or put pressure on countries like Senegal.






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