Off the coast of Mauritania, 89 people died trying to reach Europe

Off the coast of Mauritania, 89 people died trying to reach Europe
Off the coast of Mauritania, 89 people died trying to reach Europe

Nearly 90 migrants died when their boat sank on Monday, July 1, off the coast of Mauritania in the Atlantic Ocean, the Mauritanian News Agency and a senior Mauritanian official reported Thursday. Dozens more are missing, they said. The victims were on their way to Europe.

“The Mauritanian coastguard found the bodies of 89 people on board a large traditional fishing boat that capsized” 4 kilometers from the town of Ndiago in southwestern Mauritania, the official Mauritanian news agency reported. The coast guard rescued nine people, including a 5-year-old girl, it said.

The agency cited survivors’ accounts that the boat had set off from the Senegal-Gambia border with 170 passengers on board, bringing the total number of missing to 72. The boat was believed to have been heading north along the Senegalese coast and had just passed into Mauritanian waters when it sank. The senior local government official provided similar information to Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity.

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The Canaries, gateway to Europe

This is the latest tragedy on the Atlantic migration route, with the Canaries, a Spanish archipelago and gateway to Europe, as their first destination. Thousands of Africans fleeing poverty, unemployment or lack of prospects take this perilous route by illegally boarding pirogues or precarious boats that can carry dozens of passengers for money.

It takes days of sailing to travel several hundred kilometres to the Canaries in conditions described as terrible by survivors, at the mercy of hunger and thirst, the sun, the elements and damage. Other routes from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe pass through land and desert towards the Mediterranean coast. The number of migrants who landed in 2023 in the Canaries has more than doubled in one year to reach a record figure of 39,910, according to the Spanish government.

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More than 5,000 migrants have died in the first five months of 2024 while trying to reach the Spanish coast, most of them on the Canary Islands route, according to the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras. The tragedies continue one after another. At least 26 migrants who left Guinea lost their lives off the coast of Senegal in May. At least 26 other migrants suffered the same fate in February, also off the coast of Senegal. The figures generally do not come close to reflecting the scale of these events. The number of departing passengers and therefore of those missing is difficult to establish in the event of misfortune at sea.

The Senegalese navy is increasing the number of pirogues intercepted and the rescue of migrants in distress. This week, it reported intercepting a pirogue with 74 would-be migrants, including 20 children. In June, its patrol boats intercepted more than 470 people during four operations, according to information published on social networks.

Action for Human Rights and Friendship and two other NGOs based in Senegal wrote in a statement that most of the victims of the recent shipwreck were Senegalese and were moved by a “yet another drama [qui] highlights the desperate conditions that drive many young people to risk their lives on perilous crossings”They believe that the systems put in place, including in collaboration with the European Union, are not producing the expected results. They are calling for new authorities in place since April. “a more effective youth policy”as well as a “improving the living conditions of the Senegalese population and promoting safe and legal migration routes”.

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The World with AFP

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