By Abia Noumbissi
At least 60 people are presumed to have died after a boat was found off the coast of Cape Verde earlier this week, according to the International Organisation on Migration (IOM).
It was found by a Spanish fishing boat, Zillarri, about 277 kilometres north of Cape Verde’s Sal Island, the country’s national police announced on Monday. Initial reports claimed that the boat sank close to Sal, but authorities have confirmed that it most likely experienced some sort of emergency, causing it to float for almost a month until the fishing boat eventually spotted it.
IOM reported that 101 people were on the boat at the time of the disaster, and as of Thursday, 38 people, including four children, had been rescued. Seven people are confirmed dead, and 56 are still missing. “Generally, when people are reported missing following a shipwreck, they are presumed dead”, said IOM spokeswoman Safa Nsehli.
However, the Spanish human rights organisation, Caminando Fronteras believes that the numbers were closer to 130 people on the boat, with 92 people estimated to have died.
The boat departed from the coast of Fass Boye, Senegal, on July 10 and was rescued on August 15. It is still unclear whether the boat’s destination was Cape Verde or if it intended to continue to the Canary Islands, about 1,500 kilometres north of where they were rescued.
The Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that they were working to repatriate their nationals “as soon as possible,” and the Cape Verdean authorities said that they had mobilised the necessary resources to assist the passengers.
No other details about the people on the boat or the disaster have yet to be confirmed. At least 778 migrants have died along the West African coast towards Spain since the beginning of the year. Every day, thousands of people travel the risky route, many of them on pirogues controlled by smugglers, which are wooden boats that are ill-equipped to travel one of the world’s deadliest routes.