As many as 16 people have lost their lives as a wooden boat apparently carrying migrants overturned off the coast of Senegal late Sunday, with officials still expecting more bodies to be found as they continue their search.
“The navy told the vessel to draw alongside and they fled,” district deputy mayor Samba Kandji said, adding that “I was told 14 [are dead] but two more bodies have been found. We assume it’s 16,” he said.
Several witnesses on the beach said the capsized wooden boat could still be seen floating near the shore.
A 23-year-old man rescued from the sea said he was trying to reach Europe following his dream of becoming a professional footballer there.
“I dreamed of going to Europe because there is no future here. I was ready to board a pirogue, but now I’ve decided to emigrate legally when the opportunity arises,” he said, noting the boats “were too risky”.
Activity has increased in recent weeks along the Atlantic sea route from northwest Africa used by migrants to try to reach Europe via Spain’s Canary Islands.
At least 14 people died in mid-July when a pirogue capsized off Senegal’s Saint-Louis, near the border with Mauritania.
Morocco’s navy said it had rescued nearly 900 irregular migrants in a one-week period this month. Most were from sub-Saharan Africa.
NGOs regularly report fatal shipwrecks in Moroccan, Spanish, and international waters, with unofficial estimates putting the death toll in the dozens if not hundreds.
During a cabinet meeting Thursday, Senegalese President Macky Sall, “paid tribute to the memory of those who died in recent accidents at sea”.
He called on the government to intensify controls at potential departure sites, as well as to deploy more “measures of surveillance, awareness-raising, and support for youth” and reinforce public programmes that “combat clandestine emigration”.