Death Toll from Mauritania Ship Sinking Mounts as Support to Survivors Gathers Momentum

Some of the 85 survivors from Wednesday’s tragic sinking of a fishing boat off the Mauritanian coast. Photo: IOM 

Nouadhibou – The death toll from Wednesday’s tragic sinking of a fishing boat carrying migrants to the Canary Islands rose to 62 late yesterday with the recovery of four bodies as IOM’s efforts to help survivors gathered momentum. The captain of the vessel is thought to be among the death and based on witness testimonies there are concerns the toll will continue to mount. 

IOM is now focusing on helping migrants recover from shock, receiving appropriate medical treatment and that specific health vulnerabilities are identified.  

An IOM doctor is now working alongside Mauritanian authorities in Nouadhibou, the second largest city in northern Mauritania to assess cases, and two of the Organization’s psychologists will arrive today to offer psychosocial assistance to the 85 men, women including at least ten minors who managed to swim to shore after the vessel sank in rough seas.  

At least 150 people were thought to be aboard the vessel, which began its journey last Wednesday (27/11) in The Gambia. The Organization is now working with the ICRC in Mauritania to link families who believe their loved ones were aboard the boat, with consular officials who began conducting interviews with the survivors on Thursday. Seventy-nine of the survivors are from The Gambia and six are Senegalese. 

“We have been receiving calls from families in The Gambia who believe their loved-ones were on the boat,” said IOM Mauritania Chief of Mission Laura Lungarotti. “This is one of our priorities at this time.” 

IOM’s Missing Migrant’s Project reports 158 people have died in 11 confirmed fatal shipwrecks this year along the 1,400km-long Western Africa migration route which runs from Cabo Verde to the Canary Islands. Eight of the earlier fatal trips began in Morocco and two in Mauritania. At least 43 people died in five reported tragedies at sea in 2018. 

The Project reports that collecting reliable data along this largely unpatrolled route is challenging and vessels may be disappearing without a trace. 

IOM will work with the Mauritanian and consular authorities to assist the survivors with potential family reunification and return to their countries of origin. 

For more information, please contact Laura Lungarotti at IOM Mauritania: Tel: +222 41 74 82 73, Email: or Florence Kim at IOM Dakar: +221 78 620 62 13, Email: or Paul Dillon at IOM Geneva: +4179 636 9874, Email: