The International Organization for Migration (IOM), and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, are deeply saddened at the tragic death of 27 people off the West African coast between the Mauritanian city of Nouadhibou and Dakhla, Western Sahara.
A lone survivor has been brought to the city of Nouadhibou following a rescue operation by the Mauritanian coastguard on Thursday. IOM, UNHCR and partners are providing humanitarian assistance such as medical and psychological support.
“Despite COVID 19 mobility restrictions, migrants are still compelled to undertake risky journeys”, says IOM Mauritania Chief of Mission Laura Lungarotti. “While we continue to provide humanitarian assistance hand in hand with the Government of Mauritania and civil society, the need for predictable rescue and assistance procedures remains. This is all the more important whilst public health measures are still in place”.
“These deaths are preventable, and they are avoidable,” Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean. “We must take action to target the smugglers and traffickers who offer false promises to migrants and refugees of safe passage to Europe. At the same time, we need to offer effective protection and services to people in countries of asylum and transit to strengthen their socio-economic inclusion and integration with host communities so they don’t feel the desperation that drives them to risk their lives on these desperate journeys.”
The 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 and included Guineans.
IOM and 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 by arranging these journeys, including through increased cooperation to identify, prosecute and sanction those responsible. This should go hand in hand with increased safe and legal pathways to asylum and migration to provide credible alternatives to dangerous sea crossings.