Dozens of migrants are feared dead after a boat that left Senegal with more than 100 people onboard over a month ago was rescued by the coast guard in Cape Verde with just 38 survivors onboard, officials said.
The boat was rescued by the coast guard in Cape Verde, about 385 miles off the coast of West Africa, on Tuesday after departing Senegal on July 10, a spokesperson for the United Nations International Organization of Migration told NBC News. At least seven people were found dead, while 38 survivors were located, including several children, the spokesperson, Safa Msehli, said.
Around 101 people were believed to be onboard the boat when it departed Senegal and the roughly 56 people still unaccounted for are presumed to have died, Msehli said.
The circumstances that the boat and its survivors were found in are still unclear, Msehli said. She said survivors were still recovering after being on the boat for over a month.
She also said it was not yet clear where exactly the boat was headed, though relatives of those who were on the boat said the vessel was headed for Spain, The Associated Press reported.
The route from West Africa to Spain is one of the most dangerous journeys in the world and Msehli noted that the journey can be long and unpredictable.
“It’s not uncommon for boats to get stranded on this route,” she said.
The vessel was a large fishing boat, called a pirogue, the AP reported, citing the Spanish migration advocacy group Walking Borders.
Nearly 1,000 migrants died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2023, the AP reported, citing data from Walking Borders.
That people continue to risk the route “signals the despair that people are feeling and the hopelessness for them to embark on these really dangerous journeys,” Msehli said.
Msehli noted that a number of factors, including extreme poverty, the impacts of climate change, conflict and violence push migrants and asylum seekers to make the perilous journey.
“Senegal has been in political crisis — ignored in our news — for months. Deadly violence, internet shutdowns and repression,” independent migration policy expert Zoe Gardner said in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“There is no safe way for the victims to escape and build the safe futures they have every right to hope for,” Gardner wrote.
In recent months, Senegal was rocked by deadly clashes between security forces and protesters after demonstrations erupted following the conviction of prominent opposition party leader Ousmane Sonko.