Over 300 Senegalese, Malian migrants drowned in Mediterranean

Some 1,750 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe this year

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More than 300 Senegalese and Malian migrants have died in recent sinkings in the Mediterranean, their governments said on Tuesday, as pressure mounted on European nations to take action.

Sorry Kaba, a foreign ministry official in Dakar, told AFP “more than 200 Senegalese perished” in the worst migrant shipwreck recorded on the sea, earlier this month.

Some 1,750 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe this year, 30 times more than during the same period in 2014.

At least 700 were killed on April 19 after their rickety trawler sank between Libya and southern Italy, sparking global outrage and demands for a solution.

“This is a question of national interest,” said Kaba, who told AFP the estimate for Senegalese victims was based on witness and survivor accounts as well as figures from a Senegalese association in Libya.

“These networks do their planning in Senegal. The young people who get on board, it’s their families back in Senegal who pay for their transportation.”

Mali’s ministry for overseas nationals said in a statement 156 Malians had perished in recent Mediterranean accidents, most from the western region of Kayes, near the Senegal border.

Senegal said it was setting up a crisis center and a hotline to enable families to get in touch with authorities who are “working hard to give people reliable and credible information”.

“Family of people assumed missing... are asked to come forward with details of those who may be affected,” said a statement from the ministry for overseas citizens.

The number of migrants crossing to southern Europe from Africa has shown little sign of easing since the April 19 disaster.

Media in Dakar have for several days been reporting the deaths of Senegalese in capsized vessels on the Mediterranean.

“Seventeen deaths for Goudiry” said a headline Monday in “Le Quotidien” over a story quoting a youth worker in the Senegalese district at the Mali border.

The area is the principal departure point for Senegalese trying to get to Europe, who then frequently travel east through Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and finally Libya to catch boats.

“I saw five compatriots including an 18-year-old starve in the (Niger) desert,” shipwreck survivor Lamine Diallo, 44, told the newspaper.