At least 140 Europe-bound migrants have drowned off the coast of Senegal in the deadliest shipwreck recorded this year, the United Nations migration agency said on Thursday.
The boat carrying 200 passengers caught fire and capsized on Saturday a few hours after leaving the fishing town of Mbour, 100 kilometres south of the capital Dakar, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
The Senegalese and Spanish navies and fishermen rescued some 60 people, but “at least 140 people have drowned,” IOM said in a statement.
The perilous sea passage from West Africa to the Canary Islands was once a major route for those seeking an escape from poverty. Attempts became scarcer when Spain stepped up patrols in the mid-2000s, but the route is seeing a surge this year.
Migrant arrivals to the Canary Islands from West Africa have more than quadrupled so far this year to around 11,000 compared with the same period in 2019, IOM said.
Fourteen boats carrying 663 migrants left Senegal for the islands in September, over a quarter of which experienced an incident or shipwreck, it said.