The Dying Fishing Village of Fass Boye

Located in Senegal, the coastal village of Fass Boye paints a poignant picture of despair and desperation among its youth, trapped in a cycle of poverty and limited opportunities.

The Dying Fishing Village of Fass Boye

In Senegal, there are few prospects for a bright future for young people. Employment opportunities are scarce, and European overfishing in the coastal waters further exacerbates the situation. The only option left is the perilous journey across the Atlantic.

Fisherman Abdoul Aziz Séne sits on the white sandy beach of Fass Boye, gazing at the turbulent waves. The sea is rough today. Colorful pirogues, the fishing boats, are lined almost belly to belly around him on the sand. White, blue, red, yellow – seemingly idyllic, but not for Fisherman Séne. The sight of the boats and the sea stirs up dark memories.

“They tried to reach Europe – even my son. There was a pirogue, 70 people on it died. Like my son, he was 25 years old. He is dead.”

Hope for a Better Life

Abdoul Aziz Séne recounts events from July 2023 when over 100 people from Fass Boye set off at night in a boat. They aimed to reach the Canary Islands via one of the deadliest migration routes in the world, the North Atlantic route, about 1,500 kilometers away from Fass Boye.

Normally, such a journey lasts about a week. However, the young men never make it; many of them perish from starvation and dehydration at sea. After a week with no signs of life, their families alert non-governmental organizations and authorities. Later, a Spanish fishing boat rescues the survivors.

Séne confesses he was unaware that his son wanted to leave. However, he does not blame the young people. “There are many problems here. For the fishermen, and for those trying to grow vegetables. You can grow a lot of vegetables but end up selling nothing. As a fisherman, you go out and currently find no fish.”

Overfishing by Europe

Séne attributes the issue to European boats with agreements in Senegal. “They come, and then there is nothing left here,” explains the fisherman. The overfishing forces young people to seek opportunities in Europe to earn money and support their families.

Many here claim President Macky Sall sold out the ocean, meaning the government issued too many licenses to foreign fishing companies that now overfish the waters. This is evident, says Fisherman Séne, as he walks through the market in front of the beach where fish are processed and packaged.

“Look here,” he says, pointing to small gray fish. They didn’t catch these fish before – now they must to survive.

Law of the Jungle

Despite the numerous fatalities in Fass Boye, about 15 young men sit under a tarp on the beach. All of them wish to try their luck towards the Canary Islands, unafraid of death. Amary Dleye, around 50 years old, has also set out on this journey. His generation was the first to venture towards the Canary Islands in pirogues.

After decades in Spain, he returned to his homeland in his old age, recounts Dleye. He won’t bar his children from leaving. “In Senegal, the law of the jungle reigns. If you have money, you are king. That’s why we have the migration problem. If you have an issue here, you find no help. But as soon as you step foot on European soil, they immediately find you a lawyer and a doctor.”

“Sacrifices Must Be Made”

The young men share many reasons for leaving Fass Boye. There are scarce economic prospects, and for over three years, no running water has been available due to the failure of two water treatment plants.

Many are enraged. After learning that more than 60 of their friends and acquaintances perished during the journey, the youth stormed a government building in Fass Boye, smashing windows, doors, and furniture to pieces. To this day, no official has returned to the site.

Mamou Ba is the President of the Youth Association in Fass Boye. He states that the youth in the area are trying to make their voices heard. “A young person in Fass Boye feels somewhat forgotten – especially by the state. There is so much lacking here. You have no job – but you have a family that needs to eat and drink. So sacrifices must be made.”

Increasing Numbers on the North Atlantic Route

According to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, in 2023, nearly 40,000 migrants arrived on the Canary Islands via the North Atlantic route – a surge of over 150% compared to the previous year. A significant portion of these arrivals were people from Senegal, from villages like Fass Boye.

The high death tolls do not deter anyone here anymore – tragedy after tragedy. In Fass Boye, many young people wait on the beach, gazing at the rough sea. They await the summer when the sea is calmer, and setting off at night becomes less perilous.