At least 140 people drowned when a boat carrying migrants sank off the Senegal coast over the weekend in a shipwreck, said International Organization for Migration, a United Nations agency. this year, a UN agency said.
The boat left Mbour, a coastal town in western Senegal, on Saturday with about 200 migrants, for the Canary Islands. But it caught fire a few hours later and capsized in the Atlantic near St. Louis, on Senegal’s northwest coast, the agency said.
According to the International Organization for Migration, which cited the reports, the Senegal and Spanish navies and nearby fishermen rescued 59 people and recovered the bodies of 20 others.
It said it was deeply saddened by the shipwreck that occurred after four migrant ships sank in the Mediterranean last week and another sank in the English Channel.
“We call for unity among governments, partners and the international community to dismantle networks of trafficking and smuggling that take advantage of reckless young people,” said Bakary Doumbia, chief of the agency’s mission. in Senegal, said in a statement.
“It is also important that we support advanced legal channels to undermine the traffickers’ business model and prevent loss of life,” he said.
The shipwreck comes as the number of dangerous sea-crossing migrants from West Africa to the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago, has increased significantly in recent weeks, according to the International Organization for Migration. .
About 11,000 migrants arrived in the Canary Islands this year, compared with 2,557 in the same period last year, the agency said. At least 414 people died along the route, up from 210 last year, the group said.
Dame Mbengue told the Senegal press that he was one of the migrants on the boat when the engine caught fire. The crew managed to control the fire, he added, before it spread to the gas rail, causing a massive explosion.
He said he jumped into the ocean and held a floating can in the water until he was rescued by passersby.
Macky Sall, president of Senegal, wrote in French on Twitter, “I was deeply moved to hear the explosion on the high seas, of the engine of a boat carrying young countrymen.”
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he was horrified to learn about the shipwreck.
“Every person looking for a better life deserves safety and dignity,” he said on Twitter. “We need safe, legal roads for migrants and refugees.”
The United Nations agency said that in September alone, 14 boats carrying 663 migrants – including 42 children – left Senegal for the Canary Islands. About a quarter of the boats sunk or report other problems.
Earlier this month, the Senegal army said it had intercepted two long canoes, known as fishermen, carrying 186 migrants trying to reach Spain.
Benjamin N. Lawrance, a history professor at the University of Arizona, who previously worked with West African migrants, said poverty and high unemployment rates have caused many people to leave West Africa for Europe, often above The small fishing boats cannot afford seafaring.
In Senegal, a impoverished country with 14 million people, fishing supplies collapsed, weakening the region’s economy, after it gave fishing rights to ships from China and the European Union. Au, he said.
If local fishing waters are open to West African fishermen, some migration to the Canary Islands will decrease, he said. Many shipwrecks in the region involve only a few people and rarely get international attention, he said.
“Unfortunately, it was a very common incident and we only learned of the particularly tragic things,” he said. “But there are many things that haven’t been taken into account yet.”