African women demand visas to avoid perilous Europe crossings

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, Jun 16 (EFE).- African women are calling on European authorities to grant them visas that would spare them and their children the dangerous sea journeys to be reunited with their partners who are already in Europe, or to free them from situations where they might face forced marriages, genital mutilation and sexual violence.

The maritime crossing from the western African coast to the Canary Islands is the deadliest of the current routes to Europe, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nevertheless, women turn to it as they have no access to visas that would secure them safe passage to Europe, where their husbands have been working for years, Awa Diop of the Association of African Women in the Canary Islands told Efe.

Red Cross data shows that women and children account for 5 and 15 percent respectively of the passengers of the dinghies that made it to the shores of the Canaries in 2020, and the numbers are increasing according to Diop.

These women are in a “very critical” situation, as after surviving the perilous trip and landing in the Canary Islands, they are separated from their children until DNA tests prove their blood relation, a process that could take months.

Families being reunited should be sped up while the visa issue is addressed, says Diop, who has lived in Tenerife for 30 years.

In addition to family reunions, women also board the small boats to flee war, sexual violence, genital mutilation or forced marriage.

The risky journey, which includes in many cases stops in other countries, involves possible abuses, rape and exploitation for these women as well as years-long wait to get a place on a boat.

And even after they arrive in the promised land of the Canary Islands, they are left adrift again. EFE


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