A STRIKING picture appeared in some Spanish newspapers on Wednesday. In the foreground was one of the long canoetype vessels in which migrants from Africa try to reach the Canary Islands; packed on the boat were 73 would-be immigrants to Spain. In the background, across the bay, were the symbols of their promised land, high-rise apartments and hotels that might offer employment and the possibility of a new life. Not all migrants are as lucky as those in the picture. Dozens of the vessels, known as pirogues, are thought to have sunk in the Atlantic over the past four months and the Red Crescent in Mauritania, from where many of the migrants now leave, have put the death toll in the past two months at more than 1'000 people. By an accident of geography and history Spain finds itself in the front line facing the advance of African migrants. Having strengthened the fences around its North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla and increased its surveillance of the relatively narrow Mediterranean waters that divide them from the mainland, Spain now finds that the migrants have moved south to Mauritania with the aim of making the 600-mile crossing to the Canary Islands. They pay about 550 euros for the voyage, even though they must presumably know that the boats they will sail in are inadequate for the purpose and that their chances of arriving safely are not good. But still they come, seeking access to work in Europe and money to send home to their families. It says a great deal about the desperate state of life in most parts of Africa that men are still ready to risk all for the small chance of success. There is no reason to think that this flow of the people who see no hope in their own country will stop, whatever counter measures are introduced. The only remedy is a better future at home and in Africa, despite all the programmes of debt-relief and increased aid, such a future remains a very distant prospect.
DYING IN HOPE