DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Dozens of migrants headed for Spain are believed missing and feared dead after coast guards off the Atlantic Island of Cabo Verde rescued 38 people on a boat that had left Senegal in West Africa over one month ago with more than 100 aboard, authorities and migrant advocates said.
Senegal’s foreign affairs ministry said the boat was rescued on Tuesday with 38 survivors and several dead on board by the coast guard in Cabo Verde, about 620 kilometers (385 miles) off the coast of West Africa. Authorities did not confirm how many migrants died, or what caused the trip to fail.
The Spanish migration advocacy group Walking Borders said the vessel was a large fishing boat, called a pirogue, which had left Senegal on July 10 with more than 100 migrants on board.
Families in Fass Boye, a seaside town 145 kilometers (90 miles) north of the capital Dakar, had reached out to Walking Borders on July 20 after 10 days without hearing from loved ones on the boat, group founder Helena Maleno Garzón said.
Cheikh Awa Boye, president of the local fishermen’s association, said he has two nephews among the missing. “They wanted to go to Spain,” Boye said.
The route from West Africa to Spain is one of the world’s most dangerous, yet the number of migrants leaving from Senegal on rickety wooden boats has surged over the past year.
Nearly 1,000 migrants died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2023, Walking Borders says. Factors such as youth unemployment, political unrest and the impact of climate change push migrants to risk their lives on overcrowded boats.
On Aug. 7, the Moroccan navy recovered the bodies of five Senegalese migrants and rescued 189 others after their boat capsized off the coast of Western Sahara.
Associated Press writer Babacar Dione contributed to this report.