Senegal: At least 14 dead after a canoe capsized in Dakar

Senegal has faced a new drama on the migrant route linking West Africa to the Canary Islands: At least 14 bodies were found on the coast of Dakar on Monday morning.

“They are migrants,” Samba Kandji, deputy mayor of Ouakam district, told AFP.

An AFP journalist told that gendarmes and firefighters were on a beach in this district of the capital, very close to the Divinity Mosque, and rescue operations continued on Monday morning in search of other bodies.

“The navy forced the boat to shore and people fled. Some jumped but did not know how to swim. I was told there were 14 (dead) but after that two bodies came out. We can assume 16” are dead, Mr Kandji told AFP minutes later.

– Body recovered –

According to several eyewitnesses on the beach, a wooden boat with migrants on board is floating on the water near the shore. An AFP journalist saw firefighters lifting a body and placing it on a tarpaulin on the beach.

A firefighter assured on condition of anonymity that the search operation had begun at 01:00 local time and GMT.

It is not yet known how many people were aboard the canoe. Two survivors were rescued, said the gendarmerie officer.

A few dozen spectators are watching the action on the beach. One of them, Amandi Mustafa Cene, 23, who dreams of becoming a professional footballer, said, “All these deaths are painful that we see.”

“I dreamed of going to Europe because the horizon is blocked here. I was ready to take a canoe but now I have decided to migrate through legal means when the opportunity arises. I don’t want to take a canoe anymore. It’s not worth it,” he says.

The migratory route of the Canaries, a Spanish archipelago and Europe’s gateway to the Atlantic Ocean, has experienced a significant increase in activity in recent weeks off the coast of northwestern Africa.

Several tragedies have been registered in the last two weeks. About a week ago, at least thirteen migrants from around Dakar died when a boat capsized off the coast of Morocco. Another boat capsized in Saint Louis in northern Senegal, killing at least fourteen people.

– Intensity of investigation –

At the Council of Ministers on Thursday, head of state Macky Sall “paid homage to the memory of the dead following the recent accidents at sea”.

He called on “the government to strengthen public programs to fight against illegal migration” by “intensifying controls at the level of potential departure areas and sites, as well as deploying all monitoring, awareness and support systems for young people”.

NGOs regularly report fatal shipwrecks in Senegalese, Moroccan, Spanish or international waters – which, according to them, result in tens, if not hundreds, of deaths. Officials in Senegal and Morocco do not communicate or communicate very little on these assessments which are difficult to assess.

Morocco’s navy announced on Tuesday that it has rescued nearly 900 irregular migrants in recent days, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa, including 400 in territorial waters.

Spain also recently launched a search operation to find Senegalese migrant boats that were missing with more than 300 people on board, according to the NGO Caminando Fronteras.

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