from AHMED ZAYED in Tripoli, Libya
TRIPOLI, (CAJ News) – THE death of 27 people after a ship tragedy off the West African coast is testament the coronavirus pandemic is not deterring migrants from making dangerous expeditions to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.
They died between the Mauritanian city of Nouadhibou and Dakhla, Western Sahara last Thursday.
One person survived and has been brought to Nouadhibou following a rescue operation by the Mauritanian coastguard.
Their boat is understood to have left Dakhla, Western Sahara, some days ago and was heading for the Canary Islands before having engine trouble.
Those on board were left stranded at sea and began suffering from extreme dehydration.
The passengers were mostly from sub-Saharan Africa.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) lamented the deaths.
“Despite COVID 19 mobility restrictions, migrants are still compelled to undertake risky journeys,” Laura Lungarotti, IOM Mauritania Chief of Mission, said.
IOM and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are calling on states to step up efforts to dismantle the smuggling and trafficking networks that thrive off the desperation of migrants and refugees looking to travel to Europe.
Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR special envoy for the Central Mediterranean, said the deaths were avoidable.
“We must take action to target the smugglers and traffickers who offer false promises to migrants and refugees of safe passage to Europe,” Cochetel said.
Most migrants in the region use Libya as the gateway to Europe.
This is despite the instability in the region and the deaths of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean in recent years.
– CAJ News