International

Dozens of migrants die as boat sinks off Mauritania coast

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At least 62 migrants travelling on a makeshift boat have drowned off the coast of Mauritania, in the worst loss of life this year along the increasingly travelled western Atlantic migration route to Europe.

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Eighty-three survivors managed to swim to shore after their boat, which was heading for Spains Canary Islands, capsized when it hit a rock.

The migrants “were mostly clandestine immigrants trying to reach Spain, coming from Banjul in Gambia”, Mauritanias interior ministry said in a statement released Wednesday night.

An original death toll of 58 given by the International Organization for Migration rose to at least 62 Thursday, as more dead bodies washed ashore during the day.

The migrant vessel sank some 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of the town of Nouadhibou, near the border with Western Sahara, a Mauritanian security official told AFP.

“The craft hit a rock in the middle of the sea, it started taking on water and the engine fell apart,” the official said.

“They werent far from the shore, but a large swell stopped them from reaching the coast by boat.”

The official added that there was nothing aboard and that the migrants were hungry and cold so they jumped into the sea and started swimming.

Worst death toll this year

The sinking in Mauritania is the largest known loss of life along the so-called western route this year, and the sixth-deadliest migrant capsize globally, according to IOM data.

Attempts to reach the Canary Islands from West African countries have increased in recent years as authorities have clamped down on crossings to Europe from Libya.

Florence Kim, an IOM spokeswoman, said that there has been a “semi-deviation of the migration route”.

? URGENT Mauritanian authorities confirm this evening that they have recovered the bodies of four more #migrants drowned when their vessel sank near shore yesterday bringing the death toll to 62.

— IOM in West & Central Africa (@IOMROWCA) December 5, 2019

Some 158 people are known to have died trying to reach the Canary Islands so far this year, according to the IOM, against 43 last year.

Survivors of Wednesdays sinking told the IOM there were at least 150 people aboard, including women and children.

Mauritanias interior ministry also said the vessel was carrying between 150 and 180 people, adding that most of the passengers were between the ages of 20 and 30.

It said 10 of the survivors needed emergency medical treatment.Read More – Source