At least 13 Senegalese migrants from the same town died when their boat sank off the coast of Morocco late last week. Increasing political and economic instability in the country is pushing some to attempt dangerous sea crossings.
The news comes amid heightened attention on the Atlantic migration route, which spans from the coast of West Africa to the Spanish Canary Islands, after several boats have sunk or gone missing along it in recent weeks.
Oumar Cisse, mayor of Rufisque, located near the capital Dakar, told AFP that 13 residents of his town had perished.
He said he had spoken to survivors who told him a total of 18 people had died.
“They were in a 63-person pirogue that capsized,” he said, referring to the long wooden fishing boats often used for irregular migrant crossings.
The survivors are being looked after in the southern Moroccan municipality of Dakhla, he told reporters, adding that he is working with local authorities to repatriate survivors.
The mayor also said that six people from Rufisque have been hospitalized, but Moroccan authorities have not confirmed the information.
Instability driving boat crossings
Senegal is experiencing increasing economic and political instability, with clashes and deadly political violence erupting in June of this year following the imprisonment of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. Sonko, who is running for president in 2024, was sentenced to two years in prison for “corrupting young people” early last month (June 1).
At least 16 people died and hundreds were injured as protesters and supporters of Sonko clashed with security forces after the court’s sentence. The unrest was the worst to hit the West African country in decades.
The country has largely held a reputation for stability in a region plagued by military uprisings, however many Senegalese still live in precarious economic conditions. The recent violence appears to correlate with the increase in the number of migrant boats attempting the perilous journey to the Canary Islands.
Senegal to intensify migration controls
Senegal’s President Macky Sall “paid tribute to the memory of those who died in the recent accidents at sea,” according to a government statement released late Thursday.
He called on the Senegalese 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 programs that “combat clandestine emigration”.
Global economic trends and the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened quality of life for many in Senegal, following a drop in net growth in 2020. InfoMigrants previously reported the presence of significant frustration among yo
Increase in interceptions by Morocco
On Tuesday, Morocco’s navy said it had “rescued” nearly 900 irregular migrants — 400 of whom were in its territorial waters — over a one-week period earlier this month. Most were from sub-Saharan Africa.
At least 14 people died eight days ago when a pirogue capsized off the Senegalese city of Saint-Louis near the border with Mauritania.
Increased checks by Morocco may be leading some boats to take more risks, traveling further from the West African coast to avoid detection.
Moroccan authorities claim to have prevented 26,000 attempted crossings during the first five months of 2023 and 71,000 in 2022. However these numbers also include migrants who have tried to cross several times, so they may not reflect the actual number of people attempting to leave.
NGOs regularly report fatal shipwrecks in Moroccan, Spanish and international waters, with unofficial estimates putting the death toll in the dozens, if not hundreds.
Source: Info Migrants