Hundreds of Senegalese Refugees Missing in the Atlantic

news 12-Jul-2023 Africa

Hundreds of refugees missing from Senegal

For days, three refugee boats carrying hundreds of people have been missing in the Atlantic. In the search for them, 86 people have now been brought to safety south of the Canary Islands. However, it is unclear whether they are among the 300 missing.

The Spanish coast guard has rescued 86 people in their search for three missing boats carrying migrants from Africa in the sea area south of the Canary Islands. The organization announced this on Twitter.

The search and rescue vessel "Calíope" set sail from the port of Maspalomas in Gran Canaria after a Spanish search plane discovered a refugee boat about 140 kilometers southwest of the island. The container ship "MSC Marta" under the flag of Panama stayed near the migrant boat until the search and rescue vessel arrived and took over the people, according to the coast guard.

Three refugee boats missing

Previously, the well-connected Spanish aid organization "Caminando Fronteras" (Border Walkers) reported that on June 23, two boats with about 60 people on board had set off from Senegal towards the Canary Islands. On June 27, a third boat with about 200 people also left the coastal town of Kafountine in Senegal heading towards the Spanish islands.

The organization is in contact with the relatives of the missing, who have not received any news from the people on the boats. It was initially unclear whether the boat with 86 migrants was one of the three missing boats.

Fleeing instability in Senegal

It is about 1,700 kilometers from Kafountine, a village in southern Senegal, to Tenerife. The families are very concerned, said Helena Maleno from the aid organization Walking Borders. The approximately 300 people are from the same area in Senegal and fled due to the instability in the country.

Hundreds of people already perished

The Canary Islands, with Tenerife off the coast of West Africa, are an important destination for refugees on their way to Spain. The Atlantic migration route is typically used by people from African countries south of the Sahara. According to the UN, at least 559 people died in 2022 attempting to reach the Canary Islands.

Situation in Senegal

Many people leave rural areas in Senegal in search of better living conditions. According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, about half of Senegal's nearly 17 million inhabitants live in cities.

The influx of people into cities poses problems, especially with regard to drinking water supply, wastewater and waste disposal. The situation in Senegal is particularly difficult for young people - there is a lack of training opportunities and jobs. The high population growth exacerbates this situation.

Every year, numerous Senegalese people decide to emigrate in the hope of a better future. According to the Federal Ministry, remittances from abroad to support the families of migrants make up about ten percent of Senegal's gross domestic product and are therefore an important economic factor.

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