At least 58 people have died off the coast of Mauritania as a boat loaded with migrants destined for Spain sank in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Another 83 were able to swim to shore near the city of Nouadhibou, where authorities and NGO staff were assisting them. Those survivors said at least 150 people were on board the boat, including many women and children.
The vessel began its journey in the Western African nation of The Gambia and followed a different route than the Mediterranean Sea crossing most commonly associated with African migrants seeking passage to Europe. It was running low on fuel as it approached Mauritania at the country’s northwest tip.
“The Mauritanian authorities are coordinating with the Gambian consular services to ensure that the necessary support is provided to the migrants while in Nouadhibou and the Gambian ambassador will travel to the city,” the IOM said.
West Africans, and Gambians in particular, have tried to migrate in increasing numbers in recent years as political and economic pressures forced them to consider alternatives. So many choose what they call “the back way,” an expression for irregular migration, that both current President Adama Barrow and exiled leader Yahya Jammeh – the 22-year dictator Barrow replaced – vowed to stem the tide of young Gambians in search of better lives elsewhere. They’ve been joined by thousands of Nigerians, Ghanaians and others from the region.
Image: IOM file