Cape Verde sinking: the boat drifted for a month after the alarm was triggered, according to an NGO | Migration

A Spanish NGO alerted authorities in four countries on July 20 about a boat carrying approximately 130 asylum seekers which was found earlier this week with only 38 survivors and the bodies of seven deceased people on board.

Relatives of those on board said the large fishing boat left Fass Boye, a seaside town in Senegal, on July 10 and was heading for Spain’s Canary Islands. The boat was spotted on Monday about 150 nautical miles (277 km) north of the Cape Verdean island of Sal.

“Our organization (…) became aware of the departure of the boat on July 20,” said the NGO Walking Borders in a press release.

“The relatives of those on board informed us that they left on July 10 and that 130 people were on board. We have activated the research protocol of our organization, informing the authorities of the corresponding countries [Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco and Spain] in the rescue of the road between Senegal and the Canary Islands.

The boat seems to have been left adrift for nearly a month in the strong Atlantic trade winds. The Atlantic migration route from West Africa to the Canary Islands, typically used to reach mainland Spain, is one of the deadliest in the world.

Helena Maleno Garzón, the founder of Walking Borders, wrote in a tweet about the boat on July 23: “A Senegalese fishing boat disappeared with more than 120 people on board. They left 14 days ago and the desperate families are asking for additional search resources.

Initial reports suggested the vessel had sunk, but authorities later clarified that it had been found adrift by the Spanish fishing vessel Zillarri, which alerted Cape Verdean authorities.

Route of the large fishing boat which left Fass Boye on July 10
Route of the large fishing boat which left Fass Boye on July 10

The Spanish Maritime Rescue Service confirmed that the Spanish fishing boat rescued 38 people and recovered seven bodies on August 14.

An official from the tropical tuna fishing company Pevasa, which operates the Zillarri, said the survivors were asking for help and were in “bad condition”.

Among the survivors were four children aged 12 to 16, Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for the International Organization for Migrationtold the Guardian.

The NGO said it was “aware that research efforts have been made” since it gave the alert but that it considers “that they have not been sufficient”.

“The characteristics of this migratory route mean that these boats can easily get lost or drift if the engine fails,” he added. “So we asked for greater research resources that could have saved more lives.”

At least 60 presumed dead after boat carrying asylum seekers found adrift off Cape Verde – video

It is not yet clear how those on board died, although some sources have said hypothermia and dehydration could be the causes. Sources said the survivors ate food left behind by passengers who died during the trip.

“With more resources and more collaboration, these people would have been rescued and saved,” Maleno Garzón told the Guardian.

Most of those who died were born and raised in Fass Boye, and residents of the small fishing community were in shock.

There is “sadness, consternation, despair and total calm,” Moda Samb, a city councilor, told Agence France-Presse.

Sheikh Awa Boye, president of the local fishing association, said survivors called home from Cape Verde after the rescue. Boye told media that two of his nephews were among the missing. “They wanted to go to Spain,” he said.

According to some reports, only one in three boats carrying people from the west Africa reach the Canary Islands. “Safe and regular pathways for migration are sorely lacking, giving smugglers and traffickers the opportunity to put people on these deadly journeys,” IOM said.

According to the IOM, at least 324 people, excluding the victims of Tuesday’s incident, have died trying to reach the Canary Islands from West Africa since the start of 2023. Walking Borders has suggested that the actual number could be almost three times higher.

Di Giacomo said: “While the Central Mediterranean migration route – from North Africa to Italy – is considered the deadliest, that from Senegal to the Canary Islands is just as deadly. The only difference is that we have little information because this route is poorly patrolled.These are long journeys, subject to strong Atlantic winds and only a few of those who leave make it to their destination.We just don’t know what happens to the Surely there are a large number of so-called phantom shipwrecks, incidents of which we know nothing.

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