A desperate scene played out yesterday near the coast of the African country Mauritania, where dozens of migrants swam through rough waves stirring up in Atlantic Ocean in order to reach land.
The migrants were seeking the safety of land after having swam from a capsized boat playing host to over 100 people.
Reports indicate that at least 58 other people drowned from the overturned boat, while the others were receiving care in Mauritania. The terrible outcome is being described as one of the deadliest disasters this year among people making the perilous journey to Europe.
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According to The Associated Press, the boat that left Gambia a week ago had been carrying at least 150 people, which included women and children on the vessel.
As detailed by Laura Lungarotti, chief of mission in the West African nation with the U.N. migration agency, the boat was supposedly geared toward Spain’s Canary Islands when it tried to approach the Mauritanian coast to get fuel and food.
Laura Lungarotti recounted the events that happened once the doomed vessel capsized:
“Many drowned. The ones who survived swam up to the Mauritanian coast close to the city of Nouadhibou. The Mauritanian authorities are very efficiently coordinating the response with the agencies currently present.”
According to the current information available, at least 83 people swam to shore, the agency said, while Mauritanian authorities had claimed that security forces had found 85 survivors.
Interior Minister Mohamed Salem ould Merzoug stated that 10 people were also taken to a hospital for “urgent” treatment, but it wasn’t detailed if they were the ones already ashore or if they were found in the water.
Still, local authorities are working diligently to locate what was stated as an unknown missing number of people.
Also, according to the minister’s statement, the survivors were receiving care in accordance with “human solidarity, fraternity, and African hospitality.”
Estimates of the amount of people aboard the boat have been as high as 180 people, most of them being aged somewhere between 20 to 30 years old. Foul play in the overturning isn’t being ruled out either, as officials within Mauritania intend to open an investigation into those possibly responsible; including possible trafficking networks, the statement said.
It’s been quite some time since the country has had to endure something of this nature for several years. Previously, thousands had died just off Mauritania’s coast in attempts to reach the Canary Islands between 2005 and 2010, but things had calmed down considerably for the past 9 years.
Yet recently, the past few months authorities have detained several boats that mostly carried hundreds of migrants from Senegal, which neighbors Gambia. According to the survivors of the capsized boat, they had departed from Gambia on November 27th.
There has been no word yet from authorities in Gambia, where tens of thousands of people have set off in hopes of reaching Europe in recent years. Despite the country’s small size, more than 35,000 Gambians arrived in Europe between 2014 and 2018, according to the U.N. migration agency.
The massive attempts to flee Gambia by boat has a direct relationship to a 22-year tyrannical rule by former President Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh had severely affected the country’s ability to flourish economically, especially for youth.
Since Jammeh fled into exile back in January 2017 after losing the election that year, many European countries have been trying to place Gambian asylum seekers back into their country of origin.
Still, even with the tyranny removed from the country, the economy hasn’t been able to bounce back yet.
The closing of British travel company Thomas Cook apparently played a huge role in reducing tourism that was helping the country maintain the country’s economy.
At the time, Gambia’s tourism minister said the government assembled a meeting on the collapse of Thomas Cook, seeing that tourism makes up for roughly 30% of the country’s GDP. Hopefully the economy can bounce back soon for the country, so that no more Gambians are tempted to make the very journey that took the lives of so many people.
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