Seven people were confirmed dead Thursday and another 56 are missing presumed dead after dozens of African migrants were rescued from a fishing boat in the Atlantic off Cape Verde that had been drifting at sea for weeks. File Photo courtesy IOM
Aug. 17 (UPI) — As many as 63 African migrants were feared dead Thursday after their fishing boat was picked up by Cape Verdi rescuers after more than a month adrift in the Atlantic, the International Organization for Migration said.
The 38 survivors, including four children, were rescued Tuesday after their vessel was spotted by a Spanish fishing boat five weeks after setting off from Fass Boye in Senegal on July 10 with 101 people aboard, according to survivors, IOM spokesperson Safa Msehli told UPI.
The number of confirmed dead stands at seven but another 56 are still unaccounted for.
“Sadly, people missing at sea are presumed dead,” said Msehli adding all those aboard were Senegalese, apart from one person from Guinea.
“We are still unclear about the circumstances of what happened to the boat, but being stranded at sea for this prolonged period of time poses severe risks in addition to drowning. That includes the risk of hypothermia and dehydration.”
Cape Verde national police said the boat was drifting about 150 miles north of the former Portuguese colony’s Sal Island with survivors being brought ashore on Sal on Tuesday morning by the Spanish fishing vessel to waiting humanitarian assistance and police and border control procedures.
Survivors were mostly in good condition, according to Sal Island health official Jose Moreira who said they were being hydrated and receiving medical checks at temporary health facilities established at the port.
Moreira said the survivors were also being tested for COVID-19 and Malaria, but so far all results had come back negative.
It is unclear where the migrant vessel was headed but the Cape Verdi islands are en route to the Canary Islands which, as a special territory of the European Union, are a gateway to continental Europe for economic migrants and asylum seekers.
Senegal is regarded as one of the most stable democracies in Africa but Amnesty International has raised concerns about restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression and a military crackdown on a rebel opposition group on the Gambia border that forced hundreds of Senegalese to seek refuge in Gambia.
The incident comes amid a rising death toll from migrant vessels lost at sea in the current summer crossing season in the Mediterranean and the English Channel.
Forty-one migrants, including three children, died last week after a boat carrying them from Tunisia capsized and sank off Italy’s Lampedusa Island in the Strait of Sicily and another 43 drowned crossing to Italy from Libya on July 3 after their vessel went down off Tunisia.
At least 500 people died when a fishing vessel carrying 650 migrants from Libya to Italy got into difficulties on June 19 and sank about 50 miles southwest of the city of Pylos on the main Greek peninsula.
In October 2020, at least 140 people drowned after a vessel carrying migrants to Europe capsized off the coast of Senegal in what the IOM said was the deadliest sea disaster of the year.