- With the elections approaching and the government losing out in popularity and its grip of power, Senegalese authorities today were left with no option other than asking the Spanish Foreign Minister to delay the signing of a migration agreement that includes repatriation of illegal migrants. The Spanish government however announced the establishment of a new agency that is to recruit Senegalese labour legally to the Spanish market.
Today, the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, ended his three-day small West African roundtrip which had taken him to The Gambia, Guinea Conakry and Senegal. Today's meetings in Dakar without doubt were the most anticipates, given the sour affair surrounding repatriations of Senegalese migrants from Spain's Canary Islands, which lead to a diplomatic crisis between Dakar and Madrid in June this year.
Senegal's Foreign Minister Tidiane Gadio today told his counterpart that his country had the intention of signing a wide-ranging cooperation agreement on migration that would include a Senegalese obligation to repatriate its citizens that have arrived Spanish territory illegally. Of the approximately 25,000 migrants "without papers" that have arrived the Spanish archipelago so far this year, local official sources estimate that around 60 percent are citizens of Senegal.
The signing of this agreement - which was Mr Moratinos' principal reason for travelling - however would not be done at the moment, Minister Gadio said. The issue of repatriation has become politically hot in Senegal, and during the last few months, the Dakar government has been strongly criticised by the opposition. President Abdoulaye Wade has been slammed for being "servile" in relations with Madrid for accepting repatriations without necessary guarantees given by the Spaniards in exchange for promises of some future cooperation aid.
Lately, this has become one of the principal opposition arguments against the Senegalese government in the heated national political debate. The political climate on Dakar is growing hotter day by day as Senegal is approaching its national election in February 2007. President Wade cannot feel safe of his re-election.
Diplomatic complications between the two countries culminated the end of May, as the Dakar government suspended repatriations from Canary Islands, claiming Spain was not respecting international legislation in its treatment of Senegalese citizens. The repatriated talked about "treason" as they had been promised flights to continental Spain, and they had never accepted repatriation.
While repatriation currently is a too delicate issue in Senegal, Mr Moratinos nevertheless was able to present several other cooperation deals - all properly signed by both parties. A particular novelty was the creation of a Spanish government agency that is to recruit among the Senegalese workforce, offering a legal entrance to the Spanish labour market. Minister Moratinos emphasised that Madrid had understood that there was a real need for Senegalese labour in Spain.
Finally, the two foreign ministers signed a new agreement destined to "re-launch the cooperation between the two countries," according to official sources in the Senegalese government. According to the Spanish Foreign Minister, this agreement "is to give a great impulse and a signal not to limit ourselves to migration issues." The new cooperation agreement focuses on the sectors of health, food security, education and human resources.
While having to leave Dakar without a signed Senegalese migration deal, Mr Moratinos is not returning home empty handed, as he his government on Monday signed repatriation agreements with authorities in The Gambia and Guinea Conakry. Both in The Gambia and Guinea, the Spanish diplomat had to explain his country's new immigration policies and the framework of the "second generation" migration agreements offered by Spain. This focuses on both development issues and on cooperation in the judicial sector and border control.
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