July 15, 2024

Senegal’s navy says it has intercepted four boats over three days with more than 600 people on board.

They were attempting the treacherous crossing to Spain’s Canary Islands – a gateway to Europe.

Footage on social media on Saturday showed other would-be migrants jumping off a boat that had run aground in Senegal’s coastal city of St Louis.

Witnesses say winds forced them back and they wanted to avoid arrest by the navy, which has stepped up patrols.

“We were at the beach chilling when suddenly we saw a pirogue [wooden style boat] arriving with migrants on board. When they got closer to the shore, they were frantically jumping into the water,” a 19-year old Saint Louis resident told the Reuters news agency.

“We all rushed to witness this although here, it’s common.”

At the end of July, the government put forward a 10-year plan to combat irregular migration, including stronger border management.

Since early 2023, at least 140 migrants attempting the Atlantic crossing have died or gone missing, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In August alone, more than 2,690 people made it to the Canary Islands from Senegal and Morocco, according to the InfoMigrants news site.

This was more than double the number of arrivals in the same month last year, it said.

Last month, the brother of a Senegalese man who died after a boat on which he was travelling drifted at sea for more than a month told the BBC despite the dangers, he would still attempt the trip himself as it was impossible to make a living in Senegal.

The West African nation’s navy has posted photos on X, formerly known as Twitter, giving details of those it intercepted:

  • Thursday 28 September: A pirogue was found with 71 people on board, including 13 children

  • Friday 29 September: In co-ordination with the air force, two pirogues were spotted with 272 passengers, including seven children, about 100km (62 miles) off the coast of the capital, Dakar

  • Saturday 30 September: Two pirogues found carrying 262 people, including 13 children.

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