Senegal navy intercepts migrant boat to Spain

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Senegal’s navy has intercepted a boat with around 70 migrants risking the perilous Atlantic route to Spain, the army said on Thursday, the third reported crossing this week as attempts from West Africa pick up in the warmer summer months.

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The vessel was caught late on Wednesday night at the mouth of the Senegal River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean from northern Senegal. All 71 passen-gers, including two women, were handed to the police, the army said on Twitter.

The Atlantic migration route to the Canary Islands, typically used by sub-Saharan African migrants trying to reach Spain, is one of the world’s deadliest. Summer is its busiest period.

The navy said it had intercepted another boat with 35 people seeking to make the crossing on Monday.

On Wednesday, the state news agency reported six deaths after a vessel with around 60 people on board capsized at the Senegal River’s mouth near the northern city of Saint Louis.

The army did not respond to several requests for comment on the incidents.

The authorities on Tuesday disputed reports that boats carrying at least 300 peo-ple from Senegal to Spain had gone missing, saying that 260 Senegalese na-tionals were rescued in Moroccan waters between June 28 and July 9.

Despite the recent rise, the total number of irregular migrants reaching the Canary Islands has so far been lower this year than in 2022.

Arrivals from the coasts of West Africa stood at 7,213 people between January and June 2023, an 18 percent drop compared to the same period last year, ac-cording to the US’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).

At least 559 people died attempting to reach the Canary Islands in 2022, while 126 people have died or disappeared on the same route in the first six months of this year with 15 shipwrecks recorded, according to the IOM.

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