At least 57 people died after a vessel carrying migrants sank off the coast of Mauritania, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said late on Wednesday.
Laura Lungarotti, IOM Chief of Mission in the West African country, said that her organization was working with the Mauritanian authorities and the UN refugee agency UNHCR “to bring first aid and medical assistance to 83 migrants from the Gambia who have survived a shipwreck close to the Mauritanian coastline.”
Lungarotti tweeted that 57 people were confirmed dead, but that operations continue, and also mentioned women and children.
The IOM cited survivors as saying that the vessel had left the Gambia on Nov. 27 with at least 150 people aboard.
“Help is being provided to 83 survivors by the government, IOM & UNHCR,” the organisation tweeted.
Despite a population of fewer than two million people, the Gambia is among the African countries with the highest number of people leaving the continent in search of a better life in Europe.
However, when former president Yahya Jammeh was forced to cede power in January 2017 after ruling for more than two decades, some Gambians started to voluntarily return to their homes.
According to an IOM report published earlier this year, as of Feb. 8, no fewer than 3,668 Gambians have been assisted to voluntarily return home under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration since the start of 2017.
More than 70 per cent of these individuals were returned just from Libya, with another 25 per cent coming home from Niger.
The remaining 5 per cent came home from Mali, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia.