Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Spain and Senegal have agreed to resume the repatriation of those who have migrated illegally from Senegal to the Canary Islands

BBC News:

They said the first flight was to leave the islands in the Atlantic for Senegal's capital Dakar on Wednesday.

Senegal is a key departure point for thousands of Africans who attempt the perilous ocean crossing every year.

More than 20,000 migrants have arrived on the islands in 2006. Spain describes the influx as a humanitarian crisis.

"The repatriations have already begun," Spain's Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jesus Caldera told national radio RNE.

"We cannot give many details because the countries repatriating these people don't want any publicity. It's bad for public opinion," Mr Caldera said.

Senegalese Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom "confirmed that Senegal would accept the return of the undocumented people," according to Spain's El Pais newspaper.

El Pais also quoted Spanish and Senegalese officials as saying more than 1,000 Senegalese would be sent home.

A previous repatriation deal between Madrid and Dakar collapsed in May after the Senegalese government said its nationals were not being treated humanely.

Spain has denied the allegations.

The Canaries have become a main point of entry for illegal immigrants seeking to reach the EU, following a crackdown on migration to the north African Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in 2005.

The recent surge has prompted the head of the Canaries' government to call the influx Spain's worst humanitarian crisis since the civil war of the 1930s.

The EU's borders agency Frontex launched an operation last month to turn back small boats carrying migrants from Senegal, Cape Verde and Mauritania to the Canary Islands.

But Spain says the operation is not big enough and took too long to get going.

Migrants take to the seas crammed into open wooden boats for a crossing of up to 10 days.

Up to 3,000 of them are believed to have died during the journey.

Dazed African migrants whisked from view in Canaries


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