A boat carrying around 40 migrants and refugees has sunk off the coast of Mauritania, leaving only one survivor, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Thursday.
The perilous sea passage from West Africa to the Canary Islands was once a major route for migrants seeking jobs and a better life in Europe. Attempts became scarcer when Spain stepped up patrols in the mid-2000s, but the route is seeing a fresh surge.
“New shipwreck off the coast of Nouadhibou #Mauritania of approximately 40 persons on board, there is one survivor (from Guinea),” tweeted UNHCR special envoy Vincent Cochetel.
UNHCR “along with authorities & partners are trying to step up efforts to prevent such tragedies, but traffickers keep lying to their clients,” he said.
The boat was carrying migrants and refugees, a UNHCR spokesman confirmed.
Nearly 2 800 illegal migrants arrived by boat in the Canary Islands between 1 January and 14 July, Spanish Interior Ministry data show, five times as many as in the same period in 2019.
Late last year, at least 62 people drowned off the Mauritanian coast and around 80 had to swim for shore after the boat carrying them northwards from Gambia sank – one of the deadliest incidents along the route in recent years.