An actor from Madrid, who had gone to the Canary Islands to document the influx of asylum seekers, was able to reunite with his brother. He discovered that his brother was one of the many who had made the dangerous journey from Senegal to Spain in the past few weeks.
Thimbo Samb and his team had come to the island chain with the intention of sharing the narrative of the over 23,000 refugees who have arrived on its coast thus far in 2020. However, the Senegal-born actor’s journey took a unexpected turn when he discovered that his elder brother was one of the numerous individuals who had recently embarked on the perilous journey.
Samb’s brother had concealed the plans, anticipating Samb’s disapproval. However, it was Samb’s mother who disclosed, three days after his brother had set off on the dangerous journey, that his sibling was among 248 individuals squeezed onto a crowded and unstable boat attempting one of the most treacherous migration paths in the world.
Samb expressed feeling overwhelmed with fear, causing loss of appetite and sleeplessness.
The time he spent waiting for updates was more frightening than when he had made the journey himself at 17 years old. He anxiously checked his phone each day, hoping for a call. “There is no way to contact anyone on these boats,” he said.
The dangers of the journey were still on his mind. In August, it was reported that over 90 individuals who departed from a location close to Samb’s hometown in Senegal had perished. Their boat had been adrift for over a month, at the mercy of the strong trade winds of the Atlantic.
“I do not recommend arriving by boat,” he stated. “However, I can empathize with their reasons for doing so.”
While nearly everyone from his home town of Kayar, a coastal city about 35 miles (60km) north of Senegal’s capital, Dakar, had lost a loved one or acquaintance along the route, Samb said many continued to see a boat journey as the only means of securing a future as they grappled with unemployment, mounting political instability and a sense that there was little on offer for them in Senegal.
Up to now in 2021, the Canary Islands have seen a total of 23,537 asylum seekers arrive, which is an 80% increase compared to the same time frame last year. In the initial weeks of October, the number of arrivals reached almost record-breaking levels, with approximately 4,000 individuals per week reaching the islands.
This week, José Luis Escrivá, the acting minister for migration in Spain, announced that the national government is in the process of preparing a €50 million assistance plan to support the Canary Islands in managing an “unprecedented influx of migrants”.
“The rise in the number of arrivals, particularly from Senegal, prompted Samb and his team at The Migration Route, an information hub, to travel to the Canary Islands. Samb explained, ‘We went to report on this issue and coincidentally, my brother was also present.'”
After six days, the wooden fishing boat that carried his brother departed from west Africa and arrived at El Hierro, the furthest island in the archipelago. Samb expressed gratitude to God for the safe arrival, acknowledging that many others do not have the same outcome.
Samb quickly relocated his brother to Tenerife, where he informed him of their plan to live together. “In some aspects, he will have a better situation than me – I spent months sleeping on the streets [when I first arrived], scavenging through garbage cans for food,” Samb shared. “But it won’t be without challenges: there’s paperwork, finding employment, and facing racism. He will have to endure all of that.”
Samb’s caution was prompted by the dangers that his brother had recently faced, which were now being revealed. In the beginning of this month, a boat carrying approximately 80 individuals, including women, children, and men, had seemingly disappeared after departing from Senegal. This caused concerns that their unstable vessel had been overcome by the strong currents of the Atlantic.
Samb reported that the ship has been sailing for 12 days. He expressed concern for the mothers with young children on board and noted that they have not received any updates or communication.