At least 140 people died after a vessel carrying some 200 migrants sank off the Senegalese coast, along an increasingly common West African route that takes them to the Canary Islands, an autonomous region claimed by Spain.
It was the deadliest shipwreck so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Community members told IOM the vessel left Mbour in western Senegal on Saturday but the boat caught fire a few hours later and capsized near Saint-Louis, on Senegal’s northwest coast.
That’s when the Senegalese and Spanish navies, aided by nearby fishermen, responded to the emergency and were able to rescue 59 passengers. They also recovered the bodies of 20 of the deceased. Senegalese officials and IOM are arranging assistance for the survivors.
IOM said an estimated 11,000 migrants have arrived in the Canary Islands this year, compared with just 2,557 arrivals during the same period last year. About one in four of the boats that left Senegal last month experienced a shipwreck or other emergency; at least 414 people have died on the Canary Island route so far this year, IOM said.
“We call for unity between governments, partners and the international community to dismantle trafficking and smuggling networks that take advantage of desperate youth,” said Bakary Doumbia, IOM Senegal Chief of Mission.
“It is also important that we advocate for enhanced legal channels to undermine the traffickers’ business model and prevent loss of life.”
Image: IOM Senegal file