Senegal's Government Tries To Keep Its Youth From Making The Risky Crossing To Europe : Goats and Soda Many African men hope for a brighter future across the Mediterranean — and risk their lives to make the crossing. Senegal is trying to make sure they don't go.
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In Senegal, They're Dreaming Of Europe

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In Senegal, They're Dreaming Of Europe

In Senegal, They're Dreaming Of Europe

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This week more migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Young men from Senegal are among those making the journey hoping for a better life in Europe. Senegalese authorities want them to stop risking their lives on rickety boats in the Mediterranean or crossing the Sahara Desert. So what are their options otherwise? NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Souleymane Sebor dons sunglasses as protection from flying sparks and squats to work on a long metal pipe. He's a welder and father of five children with his two wives. Sebor is one of many Senegalese men who failed to make it as an undocumented migrant. He says he didn't even get to Italy. He was turned back from Libya. And says he won't be trying to venture to Europe again without papers.

SOULEYMANE SEBOR: (Through interpreter) I have my wives, and I have to feed the family. So I had to go, that's the main reason why I left. The work I'm doing does not provide much money. And this type of welding and this type of work in Senegal does not pay much. And I heard that in Italy, it's a profession that pays well.

QUIST-ARCTON: The 32 year old lives in the village of Bala in Eastern Senegal, which is at the heart of the migrant exodus. Sitting at the ramshackle-rural home he shares with his young family and sick mother, Sebor tells me such pressures are pushing especially young Senegalese men to leave home hoping to make better money overseas to help their families.

KADIATOU CISSE: (Foreign language spoken).

QUIST-ARCTON: Sebor's sick mother, 56-year-old, Kadiatou Cisse, is familiar with the situation. He's her youngest child. And while she was still pregnant with him, she says her husband traveled from Senegal as an undocumented migrant leaving her to raise their four children. Her eyes mist over. She fears history may be repeating itself.

CISSE: (Foreign language spoken).

QUIST-ARCTON: "It's as if my children are infected with the same migration bug," she tells me, "it's a gangrenous cancer." The government says the youth must stay home, invest in Senegal and farm. Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye, who's also responsible for immigration and Senegalese overseas repeated this mantra to NPR.

MANKEUR NDIAYE: We are developing projects in the field - in agricultural field to allow our young people to stay in the country and to have a job.

QUIST-ARCTON: But, sir, it's not working. Young men are still leaving in droves.

NDIAYE: But I am sure that it will work. It will work.

QUIST-ARCTON: When?

NDIAYE: It will work soon, soon.

QUIST-ARCTON: Not soon enough for many, mainly young men who are determined to go to Europe. Nonprofit organizations, like La Lumiere - the light - are trying to find practical solutions and projects to help deported returnees resettle and remain in Senegal. Brahima Sory Diallo heads the nonprofit. He says they've set up a number of fruit and vegetable garden and other projects in the region with mixed results.

BRAHIMA DIALLO: Tambacounda is a poor region, and we haven't any possibility to give job for young peoples. We have many success stories. Right now in Senegal if you go in Kolda area, I can show you more than 100 peoples who stay here and working with us.

QUIST-ARCTON: But Diallo acknowledges failures, too. And says some young men join a start up then, with whatever money they get, make another attempt to reach Europe.

DIALLO: In Missirah, we have start one community project, one big garden for 50 young mens. But four go back. The return in Libya. One of them is dead. But the young men are there waiting.

QUIST-ARCTON: A fraction of these young men and others seem prepared to give life in Senegal a chance. While others from this area continue to dream about Europe as their preferred destination.

At the main bus station in Tambacounda, where many would-be migrants start their odyssey, I meet young motorbike taxi driver, Assan Thiobane. Watching so many other young men leaving for Europe, is he inclined to go or to stay in Senegal?

ASSAN THIOBANE: (Foreign language spoken).

QUIST-ARCTON: Wearing trendy sunglasses, Thiobane's answer is unequivocal.

THIOBANE: (Foreign language spoken).

QUIST-ARCTON: Yes, he, too, is looking to leave Senegal for Europe, as soon as he's saved up enough money, he says. And that's despite the Senegalese, like many others worldwide, continuing to watch disturbing images of desperate migrants being rescued on the high seas or worse, perishing in the Mediterranean. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Tambacounda, Eastern Senegal.

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