A Senegalese court on Tuesday handed down jail terms to three fathers accused of pushing their sons to migrate to Europe by sea, sending them on a trip that left one of them dead.
Defence lawyer Assane Dioma Ndiaye said the trio were given two-year jail terms, 23 months of which were suspended, on a charge of “placing the lives of others in danger.
Ndiaye added they were acquitted of the charge of abetting migrant trafficking in a high-profile case.
The sons were with other migrants who boarded a canoe to make the crossing from Senegal to Spain’s Canary Islands, the first step in a plan to reach continental Europe.
But one of them, a teenager nicknamed Doudou, fell ill and died during the trip. His father had paid 250,000 CFA francs ($460) to a smuggler, who was to take the boy to Spain. His destination after that was Italy, where he hoped to sign up for a football training academy.
The fathers of the three, all of them fishermen in the coastal town of Mbour, were arrested a couple of weeks later.
Over 500 people have died this year, mostly in October and November, according to the UN’s International Office for Migration (IOM), compared to 210 fatalities for the whole of last year.
The pressure to migrate is especially strong among fishing communities. Coastal villages in Senegal have been badly hit by dwindling catches, and by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.