ASA and ABISA Facilitate Repatriation of Three Migrant Bodies to Senegal

Photos and video: Isseu Diouf Campbell

Code NGom, Ndongo Sarry, and Abdoulaye NDoye dreamed of a better life for themselves and their family, which they hoped they could fulfill in the United States. So, they left Senegal like thousands of Senegalese have done in the past few years. They booked a ticket for Nicaragua, hustled themselves to the American border, and came to New York City. Little did they know that months later, they would go back home in a coffin.

Cousins Ndongo Sarry and Abdoulaye NDoye, both 25 years old, were found dead in the woods in the town of Moers, covered with snow near the Canadian border by border patrol agents on March 25, 2024. After a few months in New York and no job, they decided to venture together to Canada, hoping for better luck, another adventure that would end tragically. They died of hypothermia “due to exposure to a wet and cold environment,” according to the New York State Police.

Code NGom, another Senegalese migrant, was found dead on March 24, 2024, in a New York City shelter located in Brooklyn. The cause of death is still pending further study.

Mamadou Dramé, the President of the Senegalese Association of America (ASA) based in Harlem, who had promised the families of the deceased that he would bring their bodies home, expressed his frustration during an interview at the Blaise Diagne International Airport in Senegal on April 19, 2024.

“This is a crisis,” Dramé said. “Coming through the border was something familiar for citizens of Latin and South America, but these past few years, we have seen more and more Africans enter the country that way. The Nicaragua itinerary is new, but Africans started crossing the border around 2016. I remember that those who had work authorization at the time got it with the association’s help. Many of them now realize that America was not what they imagined. They can’t imagine spending 6 or 7 million CFA francs to come to New York City to sleep on the train, in the street, or even in a shelter.

Drame, who was greeted at the airport by members of the Diaspora Bath Niang, Omar Ly, Adja Soukeina NDoye, and Birima, believes this is happening because Senegalese migrants don’t have the correct information.

“You can’t come to New York, go to Times Square, and post beautiful videos on social media to make people think that America is great while, on the other hand, you are not showing the other side of America,” Dramé added. “Some people are taking advantage of these migrants. They are making a lot of money by painting beautiful pictures and selling tickets while knowing that the migrants will struggle. It has to stop. If we are bringing dead bodies from America, it’s because these kids don’t have the right information. If you have 6 or 7 million CFA franc, you should consider doing something else with that money. I’m not saying don’t come to America, but come legally with a visa; that would make your life much easier.”

After a community fundraiser and help from the African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs, ASA was able to cover the costs of the funeral and the trip back to Senegal.

“Everyone who comes to our office in America needing help, we will help them because they are our brothers and sisters,” stated Adja Soukeina NDoye of ABISA. “We created a fund when we realized that there were bodies that could not come home because of financial reasons. The only thing a family has after the death of a loved one is to see the body return so that they can bury it properly and pray for it. It was a pleasure working with Mamadou Dramé to help get these three bodies home.”

While ASA and ABISA did all the work on the US side, Aicha Touré, a member of the Senegalese Parliament, made sure that the bodies would get to their final destinations: Niague for Ndongo Sarry and Abdoulaye NDoye and Dakar for Code NGom.

“Mamadou Dramé and Adja Soukeina NDoye did everything they could in the US for these kids; the least we could do was be present at the airport and facilitate everything here in Senegal,” Aicha Touré explained. These are our brothers, and we don’t know whose turn it will be tomorrow, so it was an honor for me to assist them.”

Family members waited patiently outside the fret area at the airport. They each came to Mamadou Dramé, Aicha Touré, and Adja Soukeina NDoye to express their gratitude.

“It is not easy to deal such a tragedy and have someone willing to do so much for us,” a representative of the Ngom family confessed. “We are forever grateful. On behalf of the Ngom family, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

“Many of us are immigrants, but we are in Italy,” shared another family member. “Had it happened in Italy, we would have known how to take care of it, but in America, we had no one and were very worried. But God connected us with someone who could take care of it for us, so we thank you for everything you have done for all the families.”

Since 2021, New York City has welcomed more than 150,000 migrants from all corners of the world. The firstcomers were lucky to find jobs under the table because many still didn’t have the authorization to work in the US. A saturated market has made it increasingly difficult for newcomers to find jobs that would allow them to find decent housing and thrive in New York and other cities in America.

The lack of employment, the main challenge for Senegalese and African youth in general, has pushed them to the sea, the desert and more recently to Nicaguara. While the exact number of deaths is unknown, many are hoping that it will stop and the election of a new government in Senegal will create jobs and bring back hope to the youth so they won’t see risking their lives as the only option to succeed.


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