DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Dozens of people remained missing and feared dead Saturday after a wooden boat capsized off the coast of Senegal, the latest tragedy in a country where untold thousands have tried to migrate to Europe by sea.
Crews rescued eight Senegalese and three Gambians overnight and found the body of one person who had drowned, though at least 60 people were believed to have been on board at the time, according to Col. Mactor Diop.
Senegalese migrants have long risked their lives at sea aboard small fishing boats for a chance to reach Europe, and the economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a resurgence of attempts.
Many are embarking for the Canary Islands, the Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwestern coast of Africa, where arrivals have increased by 750% last year.
At least 849 people died this year on the route to the Canary Islands, more than four times as many as any of the previous six years, according to a report by the U.N.’s migration agency.
Those traveling by sea have often been refused visas for European countries but take the risk of a perilous voyage for the chance to earn enough money to support their families back home.
Senegalese authorities have tried to discourage the efforts, even prosecuting the fathers of some who attempted to migrate. The boats, though, often set off in the dark of night and family members only learn of the voyage later.
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