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Single migrant survives shipwreck near Mauritania

August 6, 2020

A boat carrying around 40 migrants and refugees sunk off the coast, killing almost everyone on board. A UNHCR spokesman said the shipwreck was the fault of 'immoral and unscrupulous smugglers' arranging such journeys.

Life jackets float in the water off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in southern Italy
The route from West Africa to the Canary Islands is seeing a surge of migrants (file photo)Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Seminara

A boat carrying around 40 migrants and refugees capsized off the coast of Mauritania, leaving only one survivor, a United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesman said on Thursday. 

"Tragic news coming in of a shipwreck off the coast of Mauritania. Some 40 people were reportedly on board," Charlie Yaxley tweeted. "These are the awful consequences of immoral and unscrupulous smugglers and traffickers arranging these desperate sea journeys."

"New shipwreck off the coast of Nouadhibou Mauritania of approximately 40 persons on board, there is one survivor (from Guinea)," Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Representative for the Central Mediterranean, also wrote on Twitter.

"UNHCR & IOM (International Organization for Migration) along with authorities & partners are trying to step up efforts to prevent such tragedies, but traffickers keep lying to their clients," Cochetel added. 

Read more: European refugee policy: Are pushbacks at sea legal?

New surge of migrants along route

The sea passage from West Africa to the Canary Islands was once a major route for Europe-bound migrants, but the number of attempts to make it across declined after Spain increased patrols in the mid-2000s. However, the route is now seeing a new surge of migrants.

Nearly 2,800 migrants arrived by boat in the Canary Islands between January 1 and July 14, according to Spanish Interior Ministry data, marking a five-fold increase from the same period in 2019. Last year, at least 62 people drowned off the Mauritanian coast after the boat carrying them from Gambia hit a rock and capsized. Eighty-three people survived after swimming ashore. 

lc/xx (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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