ROME — Dozens of African migrants bound for Europe are missing and believed dead after a shipwreck off the coast of west Africa.
Coastguard officials from the Atlantic island of Cape Verde have rescued 38 people on a vessel that had left the town of Fass Boye in western Senegal a month earlier with more than 100 people on board, officials said, part of a recent migrant surge from Africa into Europe.
The ship was rescued some 385 miles off the west African coast, according to the Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that more than 60 people are believed to have drowned.
The Spanish migrant activist group Caminando Fronteras said the ship was a large fishing vessel that left Senegal on July 10 with more than 100 migrants on board.
IOM spokeswoman Sada Msehli said that 63 passengers were allegedly killed and 38 survived, including four children between the ages of 12 and 16. Rescue teams have so far found the bodies of seven people.
“All the missing are dead,” said Abdou Karim Sarr, an official with the local Artisanal Fisheries Council.
Historically, migrant sea deaths have risen in proportion to the number of people who attempt the perilous journey from Africa to Europe.
The year 2023 has seen a dramatic spike in the number of migrants attempting the crossing, and the number of sea deaths has increased correspondingly. According to figures provided by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), as of August 13, some 2,175 people were reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year.
As of last Sunday, nearly 97,000 immigrants have traveled across the Mediterranean Sea into Italy so far in 2023, more than double the number (47,117) who had arrived by this date in 2022, the United Nations revealed.
Since the beginning of Europe’s migrant crisis nearly a decade ago, the only political measure that has succeeded in significantly lowering migrant sea deaths has been tightening border controls to discourage migrants and people smugglers from attempting the dangerous sea crossing.
The European Union border agency, Frontex, warned last week that people smugglers shuttling migrants across the Mediterranean have come back with a vengeance after being virtually shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Increased migratory pressure on this route may persist in the coming months with smugglers offering lower prices for migrants departing from Libya and Tunisia amid fierce competition among the criminal groups,” Frontex said in an August 11 report.
Frontex said that the number of detections of irregular crossings at EU’s external borders rose 13 percent in the first seven months of 2023 to a total of 176,100, the highest total for the January-July period since 2016.