A boat carrying 180 migrants was intercepted by the Mauritanian coast guard the U.N. migration agency said, less than two days after 62 migrants drowned in the same waters en route from Gambia.
The boat is understood to have been carrying between 150 and 180 people, said Laura Lungarotti, chief of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Mauritania.
The incidents are indicative of a resurgence in the number of people willing to risk the sea passage from West Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands, previously a major route for those seeking jobs and a better life in Europe until Spain stepped up patrols in the mid-2000s.
“It is part of this trend of increasing numbers of people passing through this route because the central Mediterranean route has stopped due to the Libya situation,” Lungarotti told Reuters.
The Italian government focussed on stopping migration to its shores from Libya and the Libyan coastguard increased interceptions. With migrants detained in slave-like conditions in Libya, numbers arriving in Italy dropped off from a peak of 181 000 in 2016.
The will of migrants to leave remains strong. Last Wednesday, 62 people drowned off Mauritania and around 80 swam to shore after the boat carrying them from Gambia sank.