The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, has agreed with the Senegalese authorities to start “in a short time” of repatriation flights for citizens of this country arriving by irregular means in the Canary Islands. “The teams from both countries are already working on it. This measure will make a decisive contribution to stopping departures, as it already happened in 2006 ”, the minister assured during her visit to Dakar this Sunday and after meeting with the president, Macky Sall. “Both governments agree that there will be no routes for criminal activities,” he said, referring to those who organize these trips. “President Sall has conveyed to us his intention to collaborate in these repatriations,” he added.
Despite the existence of a bilateral agreement between the two countries, the repatriation flights of Senegalese citizens who arrive in Spain clandestinely have been paralyzed due to COVID-19, which caused a border closure. The trip made this Sunday by González Laya to Dakar, in which he also met with the Senegalese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aissatou Tall, had among its objectives to reactivate them. “We know that it is a very sensitive issue and we will be too,” added the Spanish minister. “We will do it in coordination with Senegal, with all discretion and respecting the dignity of the people.”
González Laya explained that, in addition to the teams from both countries, they are already working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) in the process of identifying the migrants. “We are going to send a very clear message to criminal human trafficking networks and that is not to tolerate them making great profits behind the back of the law,” he added. The Foreign Minister clarified that, for now, it is not planned to resume these repatriation flights with Mali -since most Malians transit through Mauritania to reach the Canary Islands and can already be expelled through this country-, nor with Gambia, since the citizens of this nationality who come to the archipelago are a minority.
In addition to the agreement on repatriation flights, González Laya clarified that he had negotiated with the Senegalese authorities to strengthen the Spanish means of surveillance against clandestine emigration. Since 2006, coinciding with the previous crisis of the cayucos, there are two Civil Guard patrol boats and a National Police helicopter operating in this country and it is expected that, also as soon as possible, one more patrol boat will be transferred to Senegal and a plane. “We work hand in hand with the authorities of this country and share the concern over the existence of human trafficking networks that enrich a few and put many at risk,” he said.
González Laya defended the action of the Spanish Government in the migration crisis in the Canary Islands, where some 18,000 people have arrived this year by irregular means, thousands of them Senegalese who set sail from the coast of this country in cayucos. “Covid-19 has destroyed African economies and we knew that a consequence was going to be more emigration. A very large number of people have arrived in a short period of time. But Spain was prepared, we have been working on this matter for months, both in the reception and in the collaboration of the countries of origin and transit to prevent irregular entry mechanisms within the European regulatory framework ”, he explained.
Another agreement reached this Sunday between Senegal and Spain has been to favor regular and orderly emigration. “President Macky Sall has the will to improve the socioeconomic conditions of his citizens and give greater opportunities to entrepreneurs, but at the same time open channels for legal emigration. We agree. We are going to work to open a window so that those who want to go to Spain can do so in an orderly manner, ”said González Laya, who announced the strengthening of circular migration mechanisms between the two countries. In 2019, a pilot experience was launched in this regard, whereby fifty young people were able to go to Spain to work through hiring at origin and temporarily.
Finally, the Foreign Minister announced the signing of an agreement that will allow Senegalese citizens who legally reside in Spain to maintain their rights acquired with Social Security and their pensions if they decide to return to their country, which she defined as “portability of rights ”. There are currently about 70,000 Senegalese residing in Spain. The agreement also works in reverse, that is, with the Spaniards who live in this African country.
González Laya’s visit to Senegal included a visit to the Port of Dakar to learn first-hand about the means available to both the Spanish Civil Guard and the Senegalese Navy in monitoring clandestine emigration, as well as a meeting with the Spanish military from Operation Marfil, which provide logistical support to the French Army’s Operation Barkhane against jihadism in the Sahel, and with Spanish businessmen represented at the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Senegal.