People smugglers keep trying to recruit this boat captain. He keeps refusing Years of captaining a boat have shaped Pape Dieye's calm and reassuring presence in Senegal. These qualities have also caught the eye of people hoping to make the dangerous journey to Europe.

People smugglers keep trying to recruit this boat captain. He keeps refusing

People smugglers keep trying to recruit this boat captain. He keeps refusing

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Pape Dieye in Guet N'dar, Senegal on October 7. Ricci Shryock for NPR hide caption

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Ricci Shryock for NPR

Pape Dieye in Guet N'dar, Senegal on October 7.

Ricci Shryock for NPR

Years of captaining a boat on the Atlantic Ocean have shaped Pape Dieye's calm and reassuring presence.

He is unafraid of aggressive, mountain-like waves. He doesn't need GPS. He can steer a boat in the dark of the night using nothing but the moon and the stars. He can tell how deep the water is simply by its color.

His experience has turned him into a highly sought after captain in Senegal's underground business of taking migrants to Europe by boat.

Many people have begged him, but he tells NPR why he always refuses.

Listen to our full report by clicking or tapping the play button above.

Mallika Seshadri contributed to this report.


Over the next week, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED is going to take you on a journey from Senegal to Morocco to Spain, connecting three of the biggest stories of our time - climate change, global migration and the rise of political extremism. Our guide on this journey is my co-host, Ari Shapiro, and he is back here...

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Hi, Michel. It's nice to be back stateside. Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Stateside, here in the studio, right.

SHAPIRO: Good to see you.

MARTIN: Good to see you - to introduce us to one of the people he met along the way. I'm excited to hear this. But, Ari, first of all, just take a step back for a minute and just give me the idea for the series because we've all covered all of these stories for years...


MARTIN: ...But sort of in isolation. Your series does something different. It shows us what?

SHAPIRO: We're trying to show how each of these trends is playing into the others. And so if you think about, for example, when Donald Trump started his presidential campaign in 2016, he began, on that day, by talking about people coming from Mexico and telling the racist lie that Mexico was sending rapists and murderers. This is something that we're seeing all over the world - far-right political leaders using global migration as a tool to gain power. And also, we know that as climate change accelerates, more people are going to be displaced. So this project is trying to connect those dots.

MARTIN: So tell us about where this story takes place.

SHAPIRO: We are going to the coast of Senegal. It's the northernmost edge of Senegal on the border of Mauritania, a city called Saint-Louis, which is this beautiful, old place sandwiched between the river on one side and the ocean on the other. And it is sinking under rising seas. And so a lot of people are leaving for Europe. But when you hear people are leaving for Europe, I think an image that often comes to mind is the Syrian migration crisis...

MARTIN: Exactly.

SHAPIRO: ...Where people were on these overcrowded inflatable rafts. That's not this. People are leaving on fishing boats, and there might be 95, a hundred people on a boat. They're called pirogues, and they're painted in bright colors. And the people leading the journey tend to be fishermen from the city of Saint-Louis. And that leads us to the person I'm going to introduce you to.

MARTIN: Well, so tell us, who is this man?

SHAPIRO: His name is Pape Dieye. He is a ship's captain - a fisherman - and also a tour guide at a hotel. And he was very proud to tell me that he does not need or use all of the fancy technological tools that other people need to guide them through the ocean. No, he's got skills.

PAPE DIEYE: To be a captain, it is not easy because you have to - a lot of experience to go fishing for a long time. Your father or your older brother will learn you how to fish. To be captain, you understand, it is so difficult because here, the wave is so big, and you have to know how to pass the wave and how to pass the mouth when the river and sea meets. And (inaudible) fishermen, we haven't the new technology - no chippers, no phone. They have to learn you how to drive a pirogue in the night, when it is so dark. You have to know the stars.

SHAPIRO: You have to know the stars.

DIEYE: The stars - what stars will go up at what time and will go down at what time. And you want to go to the north, you have to use what stars and the moon also. It is so difficult.

SHAPIRO: So these are useful skills for fishing. They are also useful skills to take people to Spain. Have people asked you to use your skills to take them to Spain?

DIEYE: When it was time to illegal immigration to go to Spain, a lot of people wanted to have a captain from Saint-Louis because they have lot of experience. And some people ask me to take a boat, to be the captain. And sometime they propose to pay you because people who go into the boat, they pay. But a lot of time, I didn't want. I didn't want to go to Spain because first I didn't want to take some people who didn't know the sea to take them somewhere it is not safe, so dangerous. It is my own conviction.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Yeah. Your values.

DIEYE: Yeah. I didn't want to make - to take people into danger because I didn't - I - in my mind, I say that when a person died, it was my responsibility. And I would never do this.

SHAPIRO: Does everyone want to go to Spain? Because everyone we talk to says they want to go to Spain.

DIEYE: Yeah, I know. But me, I don't want. A friend of mine, he knocked in my door at midnight. He tell me, I'm going to Spain, to port (inaudible). And I tried to advise him not to go, to stay here. But he was so angry with me. And he go. I know that this person wanted to go, but me, I never want to go to Spain.

SHAPIRO: Did he arrive in Spain? Do you speak to him now?

DIEYE: Yeah, on the phone. They phone me. They are there. They work. He came back, and he has his paper.

SHAPIRO: Do you have children?

DIEYE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: How many children do you have?


SHAPIRO: Six children. Are any of them old enough to work?

DIEYE: None of them - so younger.

SHAPIRO: They're all young.

DIEYE: They go to school.

SHAPIRO: If one of your children said to you, Papa, Dad, I cannot make money here, I need to go to Europe, what would you say to them?

DIEYE: For now, they can't do this because they are so younger. They go to school. It is not for them to decide. I decide for them because they are so young. They go to school. I believe that when they will become old - 20, 25 - I believe that at the time, for the years 2030, 2035, their life will change. They won't need to think to go to Spain. They'll get their life here. I believe that life will change.

SHAPIRO: So, Michel, he hopes that by the time his children are adults, they won't need to go to Europe, that they will be able to have a good life in Saint-Louis, Senegal.

MARTIN: You know, that is really profound, Ari, because I think that a lot of people have the stereotype that people are just kind of lining up, just waiting for their chance to leave and don't think about the fact that it is a very profound and traumatic thing to leave your home and everything you know...


MARTIN: ...To take a chance in a country you've never seen. But then tell me about what role climate change plays here.

SHAPIRO: Well, this community that has been under pressure for a long time from overfishing, from poverty, is now under added pressure from high tides, harsher storms, rising seas, extreme weather. One expert who we talked to called climate change a vulnerability multiplier. It might not be the only reason a person leaves. But on top of everything else, it might be the thing that just pushes them to say, I cannot stay here anymore.

MARTIN: What are we going to hear as the journey continues all week long?

SHAPIRO: Well, we're going to track, as we said, the way climate change is fueling migration, is fueling the rise of the far right politically. And at the end of the journey, we're going to meet this man whose stories tie all these threads together. He used to be a fisherman in Senegal. He worked as an undocumented immigrant in Spain for years. And now he is an elected political leader in Madrid's General Assembly, named Srinem Baye (ph). We visited his hometown in Senegal. We visited him at the parliament in Spain, and we're going to tie that all together.

MARTIN: That's remarkable. That's our ALL THINGS CONSIDERED co-host Ari Shapiro. You can hear his stories all week. Ari, thank you so much.

SHAPIRO: Thanks, Michel.

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