By Momodou Jarju
Before going to press, the Communications Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saikou Ceesay, told Foroyaa that over 200 irregular migrants are being repatriated to the country as of yesterday.
Mr. Ceesay said the returnees were among those rescued on the first boat that capsized carrying 195 people and the second boat that was intercepted carrying 190 people.
He said the 79 rescued migrants from the first boat and the 190 intercepted in the second boat were on board for home. The number is believed to be 269 in total.
“I just spoke with the ambassador in Mauritania about two hours ago. They are coming in five buses. They just passed Senegal, so they are coming to The Gambia,” Mr. Ceesay said.
International Organization for Migration (IOM) communications officer Miko Alazas said the transportation is being coordinated by authorities of both Mauritania and The Gambia.
A Gist Of What Happened?
The Gambia Government said 63 died on the capsized vessel that left The Gambia last Wednesday bound for the Canary Islands, part of Spain and ran out of fuel. The majority of the migrants are from Barra and its surroundings.
The ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement on Friday that 13 women were on board and 11 of them died.
The shocking accident sent the country into mourning. The tragic boat accident is the biggest since irregular migration intensified more than 10 years ago.
IOM said in a statement over the weekend that they were working to provide immediate assistance to Gambian survivors, following the sinking of the vessel off the coast of Nouadhibou Mauritania- about 480 kilometers from the capital Nouakchott.
Kawsu Jaiteh, a Gambian residing in Nauodhibou, Mauritania told Foroyaa that the 62 irregular migrants who died were buried at night of Wednesday in Mauritania.
“From what I can confirm 58 people died when the boat capsized. However, four people were later confirmed dead, making it 62. I heard a statement from President Adama Barrow saying five people later died but I only know of four,” Mr. Jaiteh said.
Jaiteh said the survivors are being repatriated to The Gambia as of Saturday December 7, 2019.
President Adama Barrow has offered his condolence to the bereaved families in a broadcast statement where he said a delegation had been dispatched for Mauritania “to cater for the immediate needs of the survivors admitted to hospital and to plan for their repatriation to The Gambia.”
In another development, another vessel carrying an estimated 150 Gambian migrants bound for Spain has been intercepted by Mauritanian Coast Guard last Friday.
Our source in Mauritania Mr. Jaiteh said he heard the report but did not see the vessel or the irregular migrants.
According to local report, the Mauritanian Coast Guard was on a search rescue mission off the coast of Nauodhibou when they spotted the vessel which was without food, water and fuel. They have since been detained.
President Barrow said arrangements have been made to transport them back to Banjul on Saturday.