At least 58 die as migrant boat sinks off Mauritania

A Gambia-based boat carrying about 150 migrants Wednesday heading for the Canary Islands sank as it approached Mauritania, killing at least 58 while others swam to shore, officials said.

The wreath of flowers launched by a coast guard boat in the Mediterranean Sea in October to mark migrant deaths. United Nations officials said 58 migrants died off the northwest coast of Africa Wednesday. Photo by Pasquale Claudio Montana Lampo

The United Nations’ International Organization of Migration said the vessel started running low on fuel before sinking. Two women and at least 10 children were among the 83 survivors who reached Mauritania.

“At the moment, access to migrants is limited as they are recovering from the shock and under the protection of the authorities,” Laura Lungarotti, IOM Mauritania’s chief of mission, said in a statement. “IOM staff are supporting the medical response by providing first aid kits, blankets and other supplies.”

The survivors were initially treated in Nouadhibou, a city in northern Mauritania, with some being hospitalized. Some migrants told rescuers they had been on the water for a little more than a week, leaving Gambia on Nov. 27.

“It speaks really to the callousness of the smugglers who of course have made their money and disappeared into the wilderness. That’s the problem here, people are being exploited, people are looking for a better life,” Leonard Doyle, of the IOM, said.

More than 35,000 Gambians left the country from 2014 to 2018, where President Yahya Jammeh ruled for more than two decades until 2017. Since his departure, some refugees have started to return, according to the IOM.

ByClyde Hughes