Boat disasters in Africa, Europe leave 43 dead

Published April 24, 2024
People believed to be migrants disembark from a British Border Force vessel after arriving at the port of Dover, on Tuesday.—Reuters
People believed to be migrants disembark from a British Border Force vessel after arriving at the port of Dover, on Tuesday.—Reuters

NAIROBI/WIMEREUX: Twenty-one migrants died on Tuesday in boat disasters off the coast of the Horn of Africa and trying to cross the English Channel from France to Britain. Bodies of 22 people were found off the coast of the Tunisian port city of Sfax in recent days.

According to the UN’s migration agency, at least 16 people are dead and 28 missing in a new migrant boat disaster off the coast of the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.

It was the second fatal maritime accident on the perilous so-called Eastern Migration Route from Africa to the Middle East in as many weeks.

Another vessel carrying mainly Ethiopian migrants sank in the same area off the Djibouti coast on April 8, claiming the lives of several dozen people.

Boat capsizes off Djibouti leaving 16 dead, bodies of 22 found along Tunisian coast and five drown while trying to reach English shores

“Tragedy as boat capsizes off Djibouti coast with 77 migrants on board including children,” the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “At least 28 missing. 16 dead,” it said, adding that the local IOM branch was “supporting local authorities with search and rescue effort”.

Yvonne Ndege, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in Nairobi that the 16 fatalities included children and a baby, without offering further details.

Tunisian coast tragedy

The bodies of 22 people presumed to be sub-Saharan migrants were found off the coast of the Tunisian port city of Sfax in recent days, a court spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“Twenty-two bodies were discovered in the Sidi Youssef port (off the coast of Sfax) since Saturday,” Hichem Ben Ayed, spokesman for the Sfax court, said.

“The bodies appear to be sub-Saharan African and were taken to a morgue,” he added. The spokesman said it remained unclear whether the dead migrants had set sail from one or more boats, providing no further details.

Tunisia, as well as neighbouring Libya, have become key departure points for thousands of migrants, often from other countries, who risk perilous sea journeys in the hopes of reaching better lives in Europe.

English Channel crossing

Five migrants, including a seven-year-old girl, died on Tuesday trying to cross the Channel from France to Britain, local authorities said, just hours after Britain passed a controversial bill to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The British government has cast its Rwanda plan, which cleared a final hurdle in parliament on Monday to international criticism, as part of measures to deter migrants from making the perilous sea crossing and avert such tragedies.

The latest tragedy at sea off the northern French town of Wimereux brings to 15 the number of migrants who have died so far this year trying to reach English shores, according to a tally.

That is already more than the 12 migrants killed in the whole of last year while making the crossing to seek a better future in Britain, according to official figures.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2024

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