At least 58 dead after migrant boat sinks off Mauritanian coast

File picture of a dinghy overcrowded by African migrants drifting off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea August 20, 2016. At least 58 migrants drowned as their boat sank near the Mauritanian coast after a week at sea, said the International Organisation for Migration. — Reuters pic
File picture of a dinghy overcrowded by African migrants drifting off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea August 20, 2016. At least 58 migrants drowned as their boat sank near the Mauritanian coast after a week at sea, said the International Organisation for Migration. — Reuters pic

NOUAKCHOTT, Dec 5 — At least 58 people drowned after a boat from Gambia carrying around 150 migrants sank off the coast of Mauritania yesterday, the Mauritanian interior ministry and UN migration agency said.

The vessel, which set out a week ago bound for Spain’s Canary Islands, began running out of fuel and sank off the coast near the Mauritanian city of Nouadhibou, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) quoted survivors as saying.

The perilous sea passage from West Africa to the Canary Islands was once a major route for migrants seeking jobs and a better life in Europe. The latest incident was one of the deadliest since attempts became scarcer when Spain stepped up patrols in the mid-2000s.

“At least 58 people are confirmed dead after a vessel carrying migrants sank as it approached the coast of Mauritania today. Eighty-three others swam to shore and are receiving assistance,” an IOM statement said.

Mauritania’s interior ministry confirmed the accident and said passengers on the vessel included young women.

Until this incident, 97 people were estimated to have died this year attempting the Atlantic migration route, according to IOM. But many deaths are not recorded, as it is difficult to track the number of vessels that do not reach their destination or the number of passengers on board.

At the peak of the route’s popularity in the mid-2000s, tens of thousands of migrants reached the Canary Islands or died trying. Last year, the Guinea-Bissau coast guard reported that 60 migrants had probably drowned when their ship sank off the coast, but their bodies were never recovered.

Although West Africa has some of the continent’s fastest-growing economies, the region is struggling to generate enough jobs for its mushrooming young population. As a result, migrants continue to tackle treacherous routes to get to Europe. — Reuters

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