Senegal - At Least 140 Migrants Die After Boat Sinks

A map showing the Canary Islands and Spain in relation to Africa.
29 October 2020

The official death toll has been revised after a vessel sank off the Senegalese coast last week. It is the deadliest shipwreck recorded in 2020 so far.

More than 140 people died last week when a vessel with roughly 200 migrants on board sank off the coast of Senegal, the International Office for Migration (IOM) said in a statement Thursday. It represents the deadliest shipwreck recorded this year.

The IOM said in a tweet along with an official statement it was "deeply saddened by this tragedy, which follows four shipwrecks recorded in the Central Mediterranean last week."

Senegalese authorities had previously said that at least 10 people had died while 60 had been rescued.

Increased number of crossings

EU Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell Fontelles took to Twitter to express his anguish at the turn of events. He said: "Another tragedy at sea. Human traffickers taking advantage of despair are a scourge that we have to fight harder."

On Monday, the government in Senegal warned of a "resurgence" in migrants attempting to reach Europe via a perilous route in the eastern Atlantic -- the crossing to Spain's Canary Islands.

The archipelago is situated roughly 100 kilometers (60 miles) off the coast of west Africa and the journey is often made in wooden boats that are usually crammed with migrants.

Fire broke out on board

In the latest case, the boat left the coastal town of Mbour on Saturday, but tragedy struck just hours after it departed as a fire broke out onboard, the IOM said. According to the Senegalese government, the blaze began among the vessel's fuel drums.

The boat eventually capsized near the town of Saint-Louis, on Senegal's northwestern coast.

In August the United Nations urged countries to review their approach to migration across the Mediterranean following the deaths of 45 migrants off the coast of Libya, in what was, until that point, 2020's deadliest shipwreck.

(AFP, KNA)

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