A performer from Madrid who had journeyed to the Canary Islands to cover the influx of almost a record-breaking amount of refugees, was able to reconnect with his sibling upon discovering that he was one of the many who have made the perilous journey from Senegal to Spain in recent times.
Thimbo Samb and his group had traveled to the island chain with the intention of sharing the narrative of the over 23,000 refugees who have arrived on its coasts this year. However, the Senegal-born actor’s plans changed when he discovered that his elder sibling was one of the many who had recently embarked on the dangerous journey.
His brother had kept the plans hidden, knowing Samb would disapprove. Instead, it was Samb’s mother who revealed – three days after his brother had embarked on the perilous journey – that his sibling was one of 248 people crammed into a heaving, rickety boat that was attempting one of the world’s deadliest migration routes.
Samb admitted, “I was overcome with terror. I couldn’t consume food and my sleep was disrupted.”
He found the days of waiting for updates to be more frightening than when he had made the journey himself at 17 years old. He anxiously watched his phone, hoping for it to ring. “You’re unable to contact anyone because there is no communication on these boats.”
He vividly remembered the dangers of the journey: in August, it was reported that over 90 individuals who departed from close to Samb’s hometown in Senegal lost their lives when their boat drifted for over a month, at the mercy of the Atlantic’s strong trade winds.
He stated that he does not recommend anyone to travel by boat, but he acknowledges the reasons why they choose to do so.
Although most people in his hometown of Kayar, a coastal city located approximately 35 miles (60km) north of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, had experienced the loss of a family member or friend during the journey, Samb noted that many still viewed traveling by boat as their only option for a better future. This was due to widespread unemployment, increasing political turmoil, and a feeling that there were limited opportunities available for them in Senegal.
During this year, the Canary Islands have seen a significant increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving, with a total of 23,537 so far. This is a rise of 80% compared to the same time last year. In October, there was a sharp surge in arrivals, with approximately 4,000 individuals reaching the islands each week, almost reaching record levels.
Spain’s acting migration minister, José Luis Escrivá, said this week that the central government was finalising a €50m aid package to help the Canary Islands cope with what he described as an “extraordinary migration flow”.
Samb, from The Migration Route, an information portal, mentioned that the rise in arrivals, including individuals from Senegal, was the reason for him and his team’s visit to the Canary Islands. He also shared that his brother was coincidentally present during their coverage of the situation.
Samb expressed gratitude to God when he received news that his brother’s wooden fishing boat had arrived in El Hierro, the furthest west island of the archipelago, six days after its departure from West Africa. He acknowledged the danger of the journey and was relieved that his brother had made it safely.
His sibling was quickly relocated to Tenerife, where Samb located him and informed him of the intention to have him live with him. “In some aspects, he will have a more comfortable life than me – I spent months sleeping on the streets [when I arrived], rummaging through garbage bins for food,” he stated. “But it won’t be easy either: there’s paperwork, job hunting, and facing racism. He will have to endure all of that.”
Samb issued a cautionary statement after the dangers of his brother’s recent experience were revealed. In the beginning of this month, a boat carrying approximately 80 individuals, including women and children, disappeared after departing from Senegal. This sparked concerns that their unsteady vessel had succumbed to the strong currents of the Atlantic Ocean.
Samb stated, “The ship has been at sea for 12 days. We are concerned about mothers with young children, and thus far, we have not received any updates or communication from them.”