Blog by Abbé Alphonse Seck, director of Caritas Senegal
Migration is one of the most serious issues of our time and it is troubling our global conscience. It raises questions about our humanity, our sense of fraternity and our ability to open ourselves to others whose lives may have been difficult. It should prompt us to work together against the injustice and inequality which unsettles the world.
It may seem surprising, but around 70 percent of migrants from West Africa migrate within Africa. Within Senegal people go from rural areas to cities, but they also go to other countries within ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African states), where there’s the free movement of people and goods. Other people go towards central Africa with only a smaller percentage trying to go to Europe.
Senegal is a relatively stable country so when people leave, it’s not for reasons of insecurity, rather for economic reasons or because young people are looking for jobs. But just as much, the effects of climate change on agriculture, as well as erosion, natural disasters and drought create hunger which consumes people’s means and force them to move.
For the past 20 years we’ve accompanied migrants through the various stages of their lives in Senegal. We work with migrants on different levels at Caritas Senegal. We make sure people are aware of the risks before they leave for another city or country and we also welcome migrants and refugees on arrival in Dakar. A key part of our work is listening to migrants when they first come to us so we understand how best to help.
We also help people who have returned from abroad with services and advice. In some places we help them launch a small business activity so we can help migrants use their skills.
Caritas Senegal also coordinates a prominent programme called MADE AFRIQUE which is part of the Global MADE (Migration and Development Civil Society Network) network. Our platform prioritises the defence of human rights and comprises around 300 civil society organisations in various parts of Africa. One of our goals is to ensure a follow-up around certain migration policies which impact our region.
As Caritas we respect the fundamental right of people to migrate to improve their lives or because of instability. We do what we can for people so they don’t put themselves in dangerous situations and our programmes are aimed at offering people the possibility to be fulfilled without leaving their homelands. But as development is a very large area, and while much progress has been made, our contribution is modest.
There are signs of hope though. The existence of ECOWAS, which I mentioned earlier, shows the political will to open up spaces. It’s based on the idea that as part of a larger economic market there will be more opportunities for everyone. Young people can study in other West African countries and the biometric identity card means people can move from country to country more easily. This shows one way in which the issue of migration can be treated positively and reaffirm the fraternity of us all.