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City of Banjul
Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Gambians among ‘back way’ boat disaster survivors

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More than 400 irregular migrants this week departed Libya on ‘four inflatable boats’ which capsised, killing more than 300. It is not confirmed whether Gambians are among the dead. 

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“Among the survivors being supported by IOM were three children who were travelling alone,” the non-profit said in a statement yesterday. “The men, all from West Africa, had travelled to Libya from Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.”

Reports indicated that the migrants were forced onto the ‘unseaworthy’ boat by Lybian smugglers. “They forced us to climb aboard the ship with guns and sticks, robbing us of all our belongings,” a survivor told IOM staff in Lampedusa on Wednesday. 

The director general of IOM, William Lacy Swing, was quoted as saying: “What’s happening now is worse than a tragedy – it is a crime – one as bad as any I have seen in fifty years of service. These smuggling networks act with virtual impunity and hundreds are dying. The world must act.”

Official figures from Italy’s interior ministry indicated that at least 3,528 migrants managed to make the perilous journey to Italy last month despite the unfavourable weather conditions in the Mediterranean. Their main country of origin was Syria with 764 arrivals, followed by The Gambia (451), Mali (436), Senegal (428), Somalia (405) and Eritrea (171).


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