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Atlantic Rising: Will migrant-watch become a climate-watch?

Lynn Morris

22nd September, 2009

If you're willing risk life and limb on a sea journey towards better economic prospects, what will you risk when climate change has devastated your home?

Uniformed men patrol the beaches of southern Morocco at night.

Their torches are trained on the Atlantic Ocean searching for boats overflowing with economic migrants heading for the Canary Islands.

From the beach just north of Tafaya, where were pitched camp, the windswept island of Fuertevetura is about 70km off the African coast.

We met a fisherman who told us that some of the Nigerians, Mauritanians, Moroccans and others desperate enough to board these small boats succeeded in getting to Europe. Some, he said, get their papers and a few years later return home driving a car.

It can’t be an easy journey. Others were not so lucky and the bodies of men, women and children regularly washed up on the beach.

However in the last two years, while the Forces Auxiliaires patrol the beaches radio in hand, there have been fewer bodies.

Whether this means there are less people setting off on the journey or if they are just better equipped it is difficult to say.

Climate change is likely to only increase the amount of people willing to risk this dangerous voyage.

As desertification increases and lower rainfall makes farming less productive, life becomes more precarious for some Africans already living on the margin. In the future perhaps more people will be inclined to try their luck in a leaky boat in the hope of a better and more prosperous life.

Europe is going to have to work hard to defend its borders against illegal immigrants whose livelihoods have been destroyed, in part, by our way of life.

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