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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 08:21 GMT
Mother's battle against Senegal migration
By Tidiane Sy
BBC News, Dakar

Yayi Bayam Diouf says that for the past two months, she has managed to prevent any boats leaving her home area in Senegal, loaded with migrants trying to reach Spain's Canary Islands - making her campaign more effective than all the warships and planes sent to the Atlantic Ocean by the European Union.
Yayi Bayam Diouf in her office
Yayi Bayam Diouf runs her campaign from a room in her house

"Every morning I go to the seaside, I call many young fishermen and I start speaking to them," she says.

She started her campaign after her only son drowned trying to reach the Canary Islands.

"He died in the sea with 81 young people who were all fishermen and all from our village."

She lives in Thiaroye, a poor suburb of 45,000 people on the outskirts of the Senegalese capital, Dakar, which used to be a traditional fishermen's village.

In the past few months, Thiaroye has evolved from dire anonymity to world fame, hitting newspaper headlines around the globe.

The suburb had become one of the major launch-pads for thousands of young West Africans trying to reach Europe in small fishing boats.

Scarce fish

Mrs Diouf says poverty resulting from the declining fish stocks is the major reason why young people are prepared to risk drowning in the Atlantic Ocean to reach Europe.

Many locals blame the scarcity of fish on overfishing by massive European trawlers - they say they cannot compete in their traditional wooden vessels.

Macky Sall
If most of us are trying to leave this country, it's because we have no opportunities here
Malick Sall
"From our forefathers, all our families are fishermen. The men used to go and fish, the women used to buy and sell their products," says Mrs Diouf.

Following the death of hundreds of youths from the area, the local women's development group she heads has switched its focus to migration.

One small room in a corner of her house serves as the association headquarters.

Posters and pictures of recent activities related to the campaign are hanging on the walls of the small office, equipped with one computer and two tiny desks.

The association's lack of resources only mirrors the lack of resources for the community as a whole.

A large fishing boat with African immigrants arriving in Tenerife
The boats are filled out of sight of the shore
"The equipment and motors used in the fishing boats have become too old," and the community cannot afford to replace them, Mrs Diouf says.

"So when the 'passeurs' [traffickers who organise the trips] came here to offer the opportunity to travel, the young people who knew the sea were tempted and they all signed up."

Although Mrs Diouf says the boats no longer leave Thiaroye, local young people are as keen as ever to seek their fortunes in Europe, despite the risks.


"If today, as we speak, I see a boat going, I would be among the volunteers, let alone tomorrow," said Malick Sall, a young electrician in his mid-twenties.

"If most of us are trying to leave this country, it's because we have no opportunities here," he said, blaming the "government for not helping the youth at all".

In the same overcrowded compound, where people and cattle live together and which also hosts a carpenter's workshop, Mbaye Diop Faye spends his time feeding and taking care of two rams, which he hopes to sell.

He says the rams are his only wealth and it is tough for him to survive with this activity.

Though he would prefer to stay in Senegal, he wouldn't mind leaving given the opportunity.

But this does not discourage the determined campaigners.

"When you do a campaign, you can't expect to achieve 100% success," Mrs Diouf says philosophically.

She prefers to point to those young men who have come to ask for support and advice and to help her run the campaign.

Mauritania: 4 former Guardia Civil patrol boats, 1 Guardia Civil patrol boat, 1 Guardia Civil helicopter, 1 Customs patrol
Senegal: 1 Italian ship, 1 Italian plane, 1 Guardia Civil patrol boat, 1 Spanish Police helicopter, 3 Senegalese boats, 1 Senegalese plane, 1 Finnish plane due
Cape Verde: 1 Portuguese frigate

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