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Dozens killed as boat sinks off Mauritania

December 5, 2019

At least 150 people were on board the vessel, which had departed from Gambia at the end of November. At least 58 people have died, a further 83 managed to swim ashore.

Sandstone cliffs at Cap Blanc, near Nouadhibou, Mauritania
Image: Imago Images/imagebroker/M. Runkel

At least 58 people have died after a boat carrying migrants was shipwrecked in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Mauritania, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Wednesday.

It was one of the deadliest disasters this year among people making the dangerous attempt to reach Europe.

The IOM said a further 83 migrants who were on board swam to shore.

The vessel, carrying at least 150 people including women and children, had been low on fuel as it approached Mauritania, the United Nations migration agency said in a statement.

Read more: Land migration in Africa twice as deadly as Mediterranean, says UNHCR

Survivors are being helped by the Mauritanian authorities in the northern city of Nouadhibou, said the IOM.

Fleeing The Gambia

Survivors reported that the boat had left The Gambia on November 27. An unknown number of injured people were taken to hospital.

"The Mauritanian authorities are very efficiently coordinating the response with the agencies currently present in Nouadhibou,'' said Laura Lungarotti, Mauritania's chief of mission with the migration agency.

Read more:  Follow the money: What are the EU's migration policy priorities?

More than 35,000 Gambian migrants left the small country of just over 2 million and arrived in Europe between 2014 and 2018, the IOM reports.

The oppressive 22-year reign of then-President Yahya Jammeh  impacted the country's economy, contributing to the high number of people trying to migrate to Europe. Many ended up stranded in Libya and Niger. However, after Jammeh was forced to cede power in 2017, some Gambians have started to return.

Returnee migrants in Gambia

mmc/se (AP, dpa)