Gambia to crack down on traffickers after migrant deaths
Gambian President Adama Barrow on Saturday vowed to punish people traffickers as he mourned the deaths of 60 Europe-bound migrants who drowned off Mauritania when their boat capsized.
"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.
"A full police investigation has been launched to get to the bottom of this serious national disaster. The culprits will be prosecuted according to law", he added.
Barrow said 60 people were confirmed dead in Wednesday's tragedy.
He said funds had been sent to Mauritania to cater to the immediate needs of the survivors admitted to hospital and to finance their repatriation.
The boat was attempting to reach Spain's Canary Islands -- a perilous and poorly monitored route along West Africa's coast -- when their boat hit a rock.
Barrow pledged to "fast track prosecution of cases involving human trafficking.
"Law enforcement officials are also instructed to increase surveillance and arrest... criminals involved in human trafficking", he said.
"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.
On Friday, Mauritanian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 192 Gambian migrants headed for Spain, a Mauritanian security source told AFP.
The boat left Banjul on Monday and was intercepted in the high seas off Mauritania. The passengers were brought back to Nouamghar, about 150 kilometres (95 miles) north of the capital Nouakchott and were given food and blankets.
The sinking off Mauritania is the largest known loss of life along the so-called western migration route this year, and the sixth deadliest migrant capsize globally, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Mauritanian authorities said the boat had been carrying between 150 and 180 people when it sank.
Eight-three people survived the disaster by swimming ashore.
Migrant passages along the route from West African countries to the Canary Islands have increased recently as authorities clamp down on crossings to Europe from Libya.
Some 158 people are known to have died trying to reach the Canary Islands so far this year, according to the IOM, against 43 last year.