Gambian President Adama Barrow on Saturday, December 7th publicly mourned 60 migrants who drowned off Mauritania when their boat capsized while attempting to reach Spain's Canary Islands, and he pledged to launch a severe crackdown on traffickers, AFP reported.
"To lose 60 young lives at sea is a national tragedy and a matter of grave concern to my government," he said on national television, adding, "A full police investigation has been launched to get to the bottom of this serious national disaster. The culprits will be prosecuted according to the law."
He then vowed to "fast track prosecution of cases involving human trafficking," adding that "law enforcement officials are also instructed to increase surveillance and arrest...criminals involved in human trafficking."
"Also, I have been informed that 189 people have been intercepted by the Mauritanian authorities. Arrangements have been made to transport them back to Banjul," the Gambia capital, he added.
The tragedy that took place last Wednesday, December 4th claimed 60 lives who drowned after a boat that had been carrying between 150 and 180 people sank off the Mauritanian coast after it hit a rock and capsized.
Eighty-three people survived the disaster by swimming ashore. The passengers were later brought back to Nouamghar and were given food and blankets. A total of ten of them were children, and Mauritanian officials said they were receiving “urgent” hospital treatment, according to the New York Times.
According to AP, thousands died off Mauritania’s coast in attempts to reach the Canary Islands between 2005 and 2010. Some 158 people are known to have died trying to reach the Canary Islands so far this year, according to the IOM, as opposed to 43 last year, AFP reported.
The migrant passage along the route from West African countries to the Canary Islands have been in an increased demand lately, at a time when authorities are tightening security on crossings to Europe from Libya, AFP reported.