At least 60 migrants feared dead after their boat sinks off Cape Verde

At least 60 migrants feared dead after their boat sinks 385 miles off African coast

  • Dozens are missing, believed dead, after craft sank near Cape Verde yesterday

Dozens of migrants headed for Spain are feared dead after coast guards off Cape Verde rescued 38 people on a boat that had left Senegal in West Africa over one month ago with more than 100 aboard, authorities said.

Senegal’s foreign affairs ministry said the boat was rescued on Tuesday with 38 survivors and several dead on board by the coast guard in Cape Verde, about 620 kilometres (385 miles) off the coast of West Africa. 

Authorities did not confirm how many migrants died, or what caused the trip to fail.

The route from West Africa to Spain is one of the world’s most dangerous, yet the number of migrants leaving from Senegal on rickety wooden boats has surged over the past year.

The Spanish migration advocacy group Walking Borders said the vessel was a large fishing boat, called a pirogue, which had left Senegal on July 10 with more than 100 migrants on board.

Apart from one person from Guinea-Bissau, they were all Senegalese. 

Children play on fishing boats known as ‘pirogues’ in Dakar, Senegal, Saturday June 24, 2023. Large pirogues such as the one found Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023, near Cape Verde are used in migrant crossings from Senegal to Spain. (AP Photo/Zane Irwin)

FILE – Open sewage flows to the ocean next to traditional boats known as pirogues at the Yarakh Beach in Dakar, Senegal, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022

Families in Fass Boye, a seaside town 90 miles north of the capital Dakar, had reached out to Walking Borders on July 20 after 10 days without hearing from loved ones on the boat, group founder Helena Maleno Garzón said.

Cheikh Awa Boye, president of the local fishermen’s association, said he has two nephews among the missing. ‘They wanted to go to Spain,’ Boye said.

The Cape Verde archipelago lies about 350 miles off the coast on the maritime migration route to the Spanish Canary Islands – a gateway to the European Union.

Moda Samb, a local elected official from Fasse Boye, said nearly all those on the boat had grown up in this fishing community.

‘One of the survivors who had his father on the telephone told him that the others were dead,’ he said. Other families were still waiting to hear if their children were among the survivors, he added.

The authorities in Cape Verde said they had mobilised the necessary resources to care for the survivors, seven of whom had to be hospitalised after reaching Sal on Tuesday.

Senegal’s foreign ministry said it would be working to repatriate its citizens as soon as possible.

A migrant boat is pictured floating off the Canary Islands. Many migrants from West Africa aim to reach the islands, one of the most dangerous routes, often travelling in the pirogue boats which are vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather

Satellite map of the Canary Islands, Cape Verde and the African coast

Senegal has already dealt with several similar tragedies in recent years.

Cape Verde lies on one of the maritime migration routes used by thousands of Africans fleeing poverty and war towards Europe.

Many of them aim to reach the Spanish Canary Islands, one of the most dangerous routes, often travelling in the pirogue boats which are vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather.

Around 90 migrants from Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone had to be rescued in the seas off Cape Verde in January this year.

On Aug. 7, the Moroccan navy recovered the bodies of five Senegalese migrants and rescued 189 others after their boat capsized off the coast of Western Sahara.

Nearly 1,000 migrants died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2023, Walking Borders says. Factors such as youth unemployment, political unrest and the impact of climate change push migrants to risk their lives on overcrowded boats.

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