Senegalese authorities on Monday brought home 37 migrants who were rescued off the coast of Cape Verde last week after their boat was stranded without fuel in the Atlantic Ocean for weeks.
The survivors, mainly from the fishing village of Fass Boye, landed on Monday evening. Some were taken out of the plane on stretchers, too weak to stand after their ordeal.
They were among 101 passengers that left Senegal via boat on July 10 – one of many to attempt the treacherous crossing from the coast of West Africa to the Canary Islands, typically used by African migrants trying to reach Spain.
Authorities organised their repatriation from the Cape Verde island of Sal, where a Senegalese doctor who helped translate between survivors and authorities explained the boat ran out of fuel. It had drifted at sea until a Spanish fishing vessel found them on Aug. 16.
“Some said it lasted eight days, others 12. Their food ran out very fast,” the doctor, Medoune Ndiaye, told reporters in Sal before boarding.
Senegal’s foreign affairs minister, Anette Seck, said 38 people were rescued out of the 101, one of whom was not yet in a condition to travel.
Only seven bodies have been recovered so far, she added.
Violence broke out in Fass Boye after news spread that the boat had been found as bereaved friends and relatives mourned their loves ones.
“It is God’s will, we can do nothing about it,” said Abdou Karim Sarr, who lost his son on the boat, as he stood on the tarmac.
Thousands of migrants brave the hundreds of miles of ocean separating Africa from Europe each year in a desperate search for a better livelihood and work opportunities. Summer is the busiest period for crossings.
At least 559 people died attempting to reach the Canary Islands in 2022, while 126 people died or went missing on the same route in the first six months of this year with 15 shipwrecks recorded, according to the International Organization for Migration. (Reporting by Ngouda Dione; Writing by Sofia Christensen; editing by Deepa Babington)