July 28, 2021

The drama of Yamila, 5, an Ivorian girl who died at sea on the road to the Canaries

To stay up to date with African news, subscribe to the “Monde Afrique” newsletter from this link. Every Saturday at 6 am, find a week of current events and debates treated by the editorial staff of “Monde Afrique”.

After a rescue of migrants in March 2021 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canaries.

On June 29, the Canaries were shaken by a new migratory tragedy. A 5-year-old Ivorian named Yamila died of cardiac arrest just as sea rescue teams were transporting her by helicopter to a hospital in Las Palmas, on the island of Gran Canaria. After seventeen long days, the boat in which she was traveling with a cousin of her mother, lost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with 35 people on board, including sixteen women and six children, had just been located by an Australian liner nearly 300 meters long.

Her parents, residing in France without papers, had not ceased, in the previous days, to contact migrant associations, in tears, to obtain information on the boat where their daughter was, without the Spanish rescue services reaching to spot it. The drama could not be avoided in the end. But the identification of the girl could not be validated by the judge, for lack of proof of parentage, even though her father and mother recognized her in the photos that were sent to them. The date of the funeral has therefore not yet been fixed.

Read also Spain at the heart of migration geopolitics in the Mediterranean

The parents wish to travel to the Canaries to attend his funeral. Spain said it was in favor of their coming. “Her mother lives in France and we are in contact with the French authorities to allow[elle] can come to her daughter’s funeral “, explained, on 1is July, the Secretary of State for Migration, Jesus Javier Perea, in parliamentary committee. France, for the time being, has not given its agreement to allow the couple to travel without being worried because of their administrative situation.

“It’s a question put to me that I will try to resolve as best as possible, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on July 9 during a visit to Madrid. There is both a human drama and legal complexities. I don’t deal with legal intricacies with emotion, but at the same time, legal intricacies don’t mean venting emotion and drama. “

Extremely dangerous

Departing from Dakhla, on the coast of Western Sahara, on June 12, the canoe in which Yamila was traveling should have arrived five or six days later in the Canaries if it had not gotten lost in the ocean. Like so many other boats.

The Canarian migratory route is extremely dangerous. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 160 people have died there since the start of the year. A largely underestimated figure, according to the Caminando Fronteras association, in contact with migrant communities, which mentions the figure of 1,922 people missing on this journey in the first half of the year, with 57 shipwrecks recorded. Only 61 bodies were recovered.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Immigration: UK wants to criminalize Channel crossings

This is the liner Cape-Taweelah, left Australia in the direction of Dunkirk, who saw Yamila’s canoe, nearly 500 kilometers from the Canary Islands coast as it was preparing to stop at Las Palmas. Too late, unfortunately, for the little girl. And for other passengers, missing at sea or arriving dead.

A week later, on July 7, after the migrants were back on their feet and questioned by the Spanish police, the captain of the canoe and the tour operator, who were on board, were arrested and charged with “Serious injuries”, « homicide imprudent » and “Incitement to illegal immigration”. According to the first elements of the investigation, the boat could have initially left with 52 to 60 people on board, much more than the number of survivors recorded on arrival.