13 Senegalese migrants perish as boat sinks off Moroccan coast

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At least 13 Senegalese migrants from the same town died when their boat sank off the coast of Morocco late last week, the town’s mayor told AFP on Thursday.

The news comes amid heightened attention on the Atlantic migration route -- from the coast of West Africa to the Spanish Canary Islands -- after several boats have sunk or gone missing there in recent weeks.

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Oumar Cisse, mayor of Rufisque, near the capital Dakar, told AFP 13 residents of the town had perished.

He said he had spoken to survivors who told him a total of 18 people had died.

“They were in a 63-person pirogue that capsized,” he said, referring to the long wooden fishing boats often used for irregular migrant crossings.

“The survivors are being looked after in the municipality of Dakhla”, in southern Morocco, he added.

Cisse said he was working with local authorities to repatriate survivors.

He said six people from his town had also been hospitalised.

Moroccan authorities did not confirm the information.

Senegal’s President Macky Sall “paid tribute to the memory of those who died in the recent accidents at sea”, according to a government statement late Thursday.

He called on government to intensify controls at potential departure sites, as well as to deploy more “measures of surveillance, awareness-raising and support for youth” and reinforce public programs that “combat clandestine emigration”.

On Tuesday, Morocco’s navy said it had “rescued” nearly 900 irregular migrants -- 400 of whom were in its territorial waters -- in a one-week period this month.

Most were from sub-Saharan Africa.

At least 14 people died eight days ago when a pirogue capsized off the Senegalese city of Saint-Louis, near the border with Mauritania.

NGOs regularly report fatal shipwrecks in Moroccan, Spanish and international waters, with unofficial estimates putting the death toll in the dozens, if not hundreds.

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