333 leagues of travel in Cayoco

333 leagues of travel in Cayoco

A total of 35,410 migrants have arrived on the Spanish coast via the Canary Islands since the beginning of the year across the Atlantic Ocean, according to Interior Ministry figures as of November 30. They make up 71.7% of the more than 50,000 migrants who have arrived in Spain by sea since the start of the year. In what is already the largest migration crisis on record in the islands, more than 31,000 arrivals were suspended by the government in 2006.


From Senegal, 333 ancient patrols travel more than 1,000 miles in search of Europe via the most dangerous route in the world, where 634 people are dead (or missing) this year, according to the International Organization for Migration. Before the end of 2023, the number will already exceed that of 2022 and is already the third-worst record since 2014, a balance sheet parody that, thanks to repeating itself, has come to formulate a pattern.

When a small ship full of migrants arrives on the Spanish coast, operational design is triggered by two actions: security and identification, and concern and solidarity.

The boat in which they threw themselves into the ocean, the cayuco, usually carried between 150 and 250 people. 94% of passengers are men between 18 and 40 years old. A yet to be determined percentage of them are fleeing political violence in Senegal. Each of them pays, depending on the time of year and demand, between 1,500 and 3,000 euros for passage.

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Depending on the tides at your starting point (Senegal, Gambia or Mauritania), sailing time will be between 4.30 and 6.30am, with the last darkness falling in the morning. The boat is usually 20 to 30 meters long and three wide. On some cayokos, if there is an inland step, two de facto classes are created: some go inland, and others, at the top, are attached to the side and are destroyed by the waves. The crossing will last on average between five and eight days.

A stern warning from regulators weighs heavily on passengers: Maintain order on board. The journey adheres to four unwritten rules. First: The passenger must carry the minimum load with him; As he pulled out a small bag for documents and a mobile phone, all wrapped in plastic. There are no seedlings, blankets or other things. Second: It is not permissible to make the slightest change that would cause panic or destabilize the ship. Third: Once the journey begins, a person’s location cannot be changed. Fourth: Movement on board the ship must be kept to a minimum, even if it is necessary to urinate or defecate.

There are a variety of health conditions among migrants when they arrive, and a constant rule: “The longer they spend at the crossing, the worse they become,” explains Inigo Vila, emergency manager at the Spanish Red Cross.

After crossing between five and eight days, during which they endure prolonged exposure to sunlight or humidity, as well as fear and exhaustion, with little sleep, water, or food, the kaiuku rider usually experiences numbness, lameness, and stiffness in the arms. And the waist. Hypothermia is the leading cause of death on board.

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Lottery on the high seas

Migrants arrive thirsty and hungry, because the limited space on the Cayoco means that at the end of the journey there will be shortages of water and food. They all suffer from multiple skin abrasions, because with constant humidity and drizzle, wet clothes stick to their backs, legs, arms, and even more so to areas affected by cuts or abrasions. Contact with a mixture of seawater and gasoline also causes skin burns, in addition to the sun and proximity to kitchen fires or engines. Moreover, when disembarking, they tend to fall asleep, giving up after days of sleeplessness and maintaining their position on the ship. They can’t say how long they’ve been surfing.

This pathetic collection of evils is the highest prize in the high seas lottery. The prize is survival. “When they arrive, there are no disturbances, and they follow the instructions with discipline,” says Iñigo Vela, who is astonished by the repetition of details. “They keep thanking you.”

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