Fellow Gambians, I join you in mourning the tragic death of our youth off the coast of Mauritania last Wednesday, when their boat capsized at sea. Latest information reaching my office states that 60 people are now confirmed death. My heartfelt condolences go to the bereaved families, as the entire nation goes through this most painful life experience. May Allah grant the departed souls eternal peace in Heaven.
Although we are still gathering information about the identities of the victims, what is clear, as of now, is that the boat that capsized originated from Barra, North Bank Region, carrying more than 150 people comprising men and women.
Immediately after news about this tragedy reached me, I mobilized my entire team to ascertain how the accident happened, who were involved in it and provide background information of the victims.
A high level government delegation has been dispatched to Mauritania. They are working with local authorities and our Embassy staff currently in the Mauritanian city of Nouadhibou, where the accident happened to provide support to the victims and participate in the recovery efforts.
My government has already dispatched funds to Mauritania to cater for the immediate needs of the survivors admitted to hospital and to plan for their repatriation to The Gambia.
Also, I have been informed that 189 people have been intercepted by the Mauritanian authorities. Arrangements have been made to transport them back to Banjul.
To lose 60 young lives at sea is a national tragedy and a matter of grave concern to my government. A full police investigation has been launched to get to the bottom of this serious national disaster. The culprits will be prosecuted according to law.
For the purpose of rapid response to such situations, my government has already established a National Centralized Coordinating Centre comprising Cabinet Ministers, heads of security agencies, critical stakeholders and specialized institutions mandated to deal with such emergencies. The Centre will identify families of the victims and advise government on their immediate needs. It will also provide constant up-to-date information to the population.
The advocacy efforts around irregular migration and the dangers inherent in it will be accelerated so that our youth can use legal, acceptable means to travel outside The Gambia.
As part of efforts to tackle human trafficking, government has taken renewed measures to strengthen the National Authority for Trafficking in Persons under the Ministry of Justice to effectively execute its mandate.
Government will provide additional support to the Attorney General's Chambers to fast track prosecution of cases involving human trafficking.
Law enforcement officials are also instructed to increase surveillance and arrest, for diligent prosecution of criminals involved in human trafficking.
The strong hope in our new found democracy should not be dampened by the activities of unscrupulous people. We want our youth to stay in the country and exploit the economic potentials available to them at home.
As the President of the Republic, I am deeply saddened by this tragedy. I would like to seize this opportunity, once again, to express my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and pray that the departed souls Rest In Eternal Peace.
I take this opportunity to thank the President, Government and the People of Mauritania for all the support provided during these trying moment.
I thank you all.