A little justice for a lot of suffering

Living here in Tenerife, it’s easy to get used to the constant arrival of illegal African immigrants on the pathetic wrecks of boats known as pateras or cayucos. Living in comfort in a beautiful setting, it’s hard to imagine the hardship and poverty that drives these people to risk their lives in search of a new life and new hope. Only a couple of days ago, another 69 were beached at San Miguel, most of them dehydrated and suffering from hypothermia.


Sadly, where there is suffering, there is often someone profiting from their misery, and in this case it’s the gangs that operate the boats and take a meagre lifes savings off their desperate passengers. In many cases they are abandoned at sea once the police patrol boats come into view, that is those who survive that long, lots including women and children die on route. Even if they finish the crossing, many are forced into slave labour, often to pay off the balance of their fare.

This week there was some payback in a Santa Cruz court against 3 boat operators from Mauritania who had brought over 67 of their own country men and women in a rickety cayuco in January. They were spotted off the Tenerife coast by the Guardia Civil patrol boat and towed into Los Cristianos harbour, and on to hospital for treatment. All 3 “captains” got 3 years in jail for their exploitation, there are many more over in Africa, just as ruthless and greedy, ready to take their place – but it’s a start.