In this time of restrictions, of confinement at home, in our town, in our closest geographical areas, we are committed by our authorities to avoid moving and to providing this cursed virus a means of transportation. In this year without holidays, the concerns of young people are about what clothing brand an influencer promotes or what master’s degree we are going to study and in which city, considering this hyper-developed environment (Translated from Spanish by Alissa D’Vale)
Not even this extreme situation has been able to put doors on the sea, to contain those who fight with the only thing they have, with their skin, hand to hand against the sea. The sea that fed them, the sea that leads them to their objective and that, at times, swallows them.
And I feel it my duty to them, as well as to the European brothers who care about them, to launch a message of alert to those who can or want to listen.
I know very well what I am talking about because I have come three times by boat to the Canary Islands (Spain), with different results, until I managed to stay. I know very well what drives them to march, as well as what awaits them here: working conditions bordering slavery, criminalization, exclusion, racism, Islamophobia, or the spread of opportunistic hate speech in the face of the enormous crisis that is looming in Europe.
It is springtime, the weather becomes somewhat milder, the winds somewhat tamer, and young people cannot control their impulse to leave their villages to seek their future abroad. They are not trying to fulfill their dreams, they do not want to opt for branded clothing from European stores, they do not want to take anything away from anyone. Their dreams, the real ones, consist of being able to set up a small family business around their elders’ fishing, a shop, a market stall, being able to raise their children close to their grandparents, receiving teachings as their own fathers did. To be able to study and have a certain professional future, instead of working and growing up from the age of 12, enjoying their country, their nature, their culture, their religion. But today it is impossible.
European, Chinese, or Turkish ships invade our waters sponsored by bought politicians who fatten their fortunes at the expense of the hunger of their fishermen. The protests in the street are not enough, they have the money and the European rulers who support them dressed in the aura of paternalism towards Africa. There are no options for young people in Africa, there are no doors that can contain the need to seek the future of the family elsewhere.
What makes it possible for you to study in the country of your choice, that you can travel on vacation to any part of the world, that all options open up before you, while the avid waters of the Atlantic Ocean close behind those other young people?
None of this is going to stop all those people. It is not scarier to die from a virus than to die slowly, entire towns, their reserves depleted by the installation of a mine, by the incursion of ships that devastate the seabed, limiting the production of fish for several generations. It is not scarier to die wrapped in the waves during a storm that plays with our boats as if they were toys.
This is a global problem, & none of us has the right to look the other way.
Nor should European governments continue to pull the strings of African politicians.
Nor should African society afford to lose its strength embodied in the thousands of young people who undertake an exodus that will not meet their expectations. That perhaps diminishes them forever.
Nor should the citizens of host countries fall into hatred and rejection by people they do not know and only seek what Europeans themselves feel they have the right to have.
To those who will have to face the problem of welcoming them, it is my duty to announce that they will continue to come, that this health, social and economic crisis will only make things worse. They will come by the thousands and die by the hundreds on the way.
To those who are considering going out, I can only ask that you do not. Do not get on the boat. You should train, study and work for your country from within. That this wound of corruption and ruin can only be closed from the depths, from where it opened. From the inside of the continent. Forming cooperatives, working together, joining forces. Those of us who are already far away know what we have suffered, the years lost on the road, our dead friends, and brothers. And it’s not worth it. From here we can support, promote, provide experience and knowledge. Let’s take advantage of all these teachings that are solid. Let’s improve this for Africa, for Africans, for everyone. Or this will be, also for clandestine immigration, the worst of the years.
Maguette Sow is the author, along with Carmen Yanguas, of Palabra de Sow (published by Editorial Mundo Negro). In it, the Senegalese is opeming up the history of his existence; from family and work as a fisherman in his country, to his migratory journey and the struggles to make his way to live in freedom from his work in Spain, and thus offer a better future to his family. This story is a contribution to stop thinking, once and for all, that immigrants in general, and Africans in particular, are a source of problems. Sow, and many like him are exemplary human beings, with their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and mistakes…tireless seekers of life, of future, of friendship, of growth, and of a better world…
See the original in Spanish En la pandemia… el año de las migraciones