At least 140 migrants trying to reach Europe drowned off the Senegal coast when their boat caught fire and capsized, a UN agency said on Thursday. It marks the deadliest shipwreck on record in 2020 and occurs along a route where at least 414 people have died this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a statement. newspapers.
IOM said the ship to the Canary Islands had trouble a few hours after leaving the coastal town of Mbour. The boat caught fire and capsized near Saint-Louis, on Senegal’s northwest coast.
The IOM, citing local media sources, said the Senegal and Spanish navies as well as fishermen nearby were able to rescue 59 people and recovered the bodies of 20 others. The remaining passengers have gone missing and are presumed dead.
Reuters reported a video broadcast on local media showing a thick pillar of black smoke in the high seas, as people swam frantically toward fishermen in a boat.
The Canary Islands have seen a marked increase in the number of immigrants in recent weeks. In September, 14 boats carrying 663 migrants left Senegal for the Spanish islands – and 26% of them “had problems or shipwrecks”, IOM said.
According to the Spanish government, about 11,000 migrants were recorded in the Canary Islands this year, more than four times the number of arrivals in the same period last year.
Reuters reported that the increase occurred as authorities implemented stricter controls on other routes through Libya or Algeria, and across the Mediterranean Sea. Now, African migrants seeking to escape war or poverty are going a much longer, more dangerous route to the Spanish islands, often in overcrowded boats and unreliable.
Bakary Doumbia, Head of the IOM Senegal Delegation, said: “We call for unity among governments, partners and the international community to dismantle networks of trafficking and smuggling that take advantage of young people. field. “It is also important that we support advanced legal channels to undermine traffickers’ business models and prevent loss of life.”