DAKAR, 5 September 2008 (IRIN) -
Participants wrapping up the two-day "Stakeholders in Migration" conference on migration in West Africa organised by non-profit Open Society Institute (OSI) said clandestine migration from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and Europe has prompted increased border crackdowns, abuses and killings of migrants.
High season clogs detention centers
More Africans attempt ocean and desert crossings to North Africa and Europe from June to September when the seas are relatively calmer, according to participants.
Dozens of would-be migrants have been found dead at sea in recent weeks. Hundreds more remain in detention in Italy, Spain, and North Africa.
Italian security forces report more than 2,000 would-be migrants, mostly African, in detention in a center in Lampedusa, Italy intended to hold only 850 people. The number of people trying to enter Italy without travel documents has doubled during the last year to about 15,000, according to Italian government officials.
Forced deportations, repression on rise
Dakar-based lawyer Helene Cissé said seasonal spikes in migration prompt mass forced deportations.
She said there has been an 80 percent rise in such deportations of mostly West African migrants from France in the past year. "As Europe deals with more Sub-Saharan African migrants, it has turned to increasingly repressive, violent, and even deadly expulsions of irregular migrants [who do not have embassy-issued travel documents]."
International agreements that prevent mass deportation include the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, and the 1990 UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families.
But Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Andorra, Greece and Switzerland have not ratified the European rights protocol, and only 35 countries have approved the UN convention.
Mauritanian rights advocate Fatimata Mbaye says that even in countries with laws that protect migrants, these are often not enforced.
Mbaye said she witnessed French police abusing a Mauritanian woman on an 11 March 2008 Air France flight from Paris to Nouakchott.
Mbaye said when she protested, airport police removed her from the flight and held her for overnight questioning before releasing her. Mbaye told IRIN the woman who prompted her to speak out remains in police custody, without access to a lawyer, after being arrested for not having proper travel documents.
"People become complacent and look the other way because they do not want to deal with the consequence of speaking up. So they remain silent. Rather I should say we, remain silent."
Women more vulnerable to abuse
The UN Development Fund for Women (UNFEM) says even though women form about half of migrants worldwide, they remain largely invisible in migration and integration policies.