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GAMBIA: 1000 MIGRANTS INCLUDING GAMBIANS DIED TRYING TO REACH SPAIN IN 2023

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At least 951 migrants, including Gambians and Senegalese, have died so far in 2023 (6 months), according to a report released on Thursday by Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders).

Caminando Fronteras is a transnational NGO that defends migrants’ rights on the Euro-African Western Border. The NGO tracks migrant deaths, particularly on routes to Spain.

Among this staggering number, which is expected to rise as the year dwindles, 49 are children and 112 women, and the rights body blames Spain and Morocco for a lack of effective coordination and failing to conduct rescue operations in time.

The migrants come from The Gambia, Senegal, Algeria, Cameroon, Comoros, the Democratic Republic Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Syria.

Per the report, on average, five migrants per day died trying to reach Spain between January and June 2023.

Tracking the number of people who are reported to have died in each month, Caminando found that February and June were the deadliest months, with 237 and 332 victims. Also, it found 19 ships disappeared with all their passengers on board.

Caminando examined four different sea routes to Spain: to the Canary Islands, via the Alboran Sea, via Algeria, and through the Strait of Gibraltar.

The route to the Canary Islands from West Africa is said to be the deadliest. On the Algerian route, 102 people died in eight incidents, while on the Alboran route 21 people died in two incidents, Caminando reported. Lastly, in the Strait of Gibraltar, 50 people reportedly died in 11 incidents.

The body attributes poor rescue mechanisms, slow response from rescue authorities (Spain and Morocco) and a lack of coordination between Spain and Morocco among factors leading to the deaths.

The organisation gave the example of a June 21 incident that took place about 160km (100 miles) off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

Twenty-four people were rescued and two bodies – a man and a child – were retrieved after a boat sank in waters off Morocco’s coast, but at least 36 people disappeared. The group said a Moroccan rescue ship did not arrive until 10 hours after the first warnings were sent.

Even those who survive are subject to human rights violations, Caminando Fronteras said. Some suffer “imprisonment, forced displacement, physical attacks and detention,” it added.

Those whose bodies are retrieved are mostly buried without dignity and respect for their religious beliefs in mass graves, with a lack of identification protocols, the group said.

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