DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — At least 17 people were found dead after a boat capsized in Senegal’s capital, local officials said Monday.
The bodies were discovered by the navy early in the morning and are believed to be migrants because of the type of boat they were in, said Ndeye Top Gueye, the deputy mayor of the Ouakam neighborhood of Dakar where the bodies were found.
“Because of the size and shape, we know that it’s a pirogue (a long wooden boat),” she said.
While this is the first time bodies have washed up in the neighborhood, migrant deaths at sea are becoming more common in Senegal, she said.
“It’s not the first time, it’s the umpteenth time. The government needs to take countermeasures.”
It was unclear where the people were coming from, what nationalities they were or where they were going. But the Atlantic migration route is one of the deadliest in the world, with nearly 800 people dying or going missing in the first half of 2023, according to Walking Borders a Spanish aid group.
In recent years, the Canary Islands have become one of the main destinations for people trying to reach Spain, with a peak of more than 23,000 migrants arriving in 2020, according to Spain’s Interior Ministry.
The boats mainly travel from Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania, with fewer coming from Senegal. However, locals and officials say there’s been a surge of boats leaving Senegal this year.
Factors such as ailing economies, a lack of jobs, extremist violence, political unrest and the impact of climate change push migrants to risk their lives on overcrowded boats to reach the Canaries. Last month in Senegal, at least 23 people were killed during weeks of protests between opposition supporters and police.
At the beach where the bodies were found, Associated Press reporters saw rescuers and volunteers working together to pull the capsized boat ashore. Clothes from the deceased washed onto the side and lay in a pile while authorities coordinated a response.
The tragedy on Monday is the latest in a string of rescued boats and bodies found along Senegal’s coast.
Earlier this month, eight migrants were found dead after a boat capsized off the coast of northern Senegal as it tried to reach Europe, and seven people were found dead and 50 rescued on another vessel discovered off the coast of the northern town of Saint-Louis. At least 90 people are feared missing from that boat.
Ndeye Sene Mbengue contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show in the second paragraph that Ndeye Top Gueye is the deputy mayor, not the mayor.