IOM, UNHCR Mourn Death of 27 People off West African Coast

Migrants in Vulnerable Situations, Missing Migrants

Geneva- The International Organization for Migration (IOM), and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, are deeply saddened by the tragic death of 27 people off the West African coast between the Mauritanian city of Nouadhibou and Dakhla, Western Sahara. A lone survivor has been brought to the city of Nouadhibou following a rescue operation by the Mauritanian coastguard on Thursday.

IOM, UNHCR and partners are providing humanitarian assistance such as medical and psychological support. 

“Despite COVID 19 mobility restrictions, migrants are still compelled to undertake risky journeys”, says IOM Mauritania Chief of Mission Laura Lungarotti.

“While we continue to provide humanitarian assistance hand in hand with the Government of Mauritania and civil society, the need for predictable rescue and assistance procedures remains. This is all the more important whilst public health measures are still in place”. 

“These deaths are preventable, and they are avoidable,” says Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean. 

"We must take action to target the smugglers and traffickers who offer false promises to migrants and refugees of safe passage to Europe. At the same time, we need to offer effective protection and services to people in countries of asylum and transit to strengthen their socio-economic inclusion and integration with host communities so they don’t feel the desperation that drives them to risk their lives on these desperate journeys.” 

The boat is understood to have left Dakhla, Western Sahara, some days ago and was heading for the Canary Islands before having engine trouble. Those on board were left stranded at sea and began suffering from extreme dehydration. The passengers were mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and included Guineans.            

IOM and UNHCR call on states everywhere to dismantle those smuggling and trafficking networks that prey on migrants and refugees looking to travel to Europe. Authorities, through increased cooperation to identify, prosecute and sanction those responsible would check this scourge, which also would go hand in hand with offering increased safe and legal pathways to asylum and migration. Both would provide credible alternatives to dangerous sea crossings.

For More Information, please contact: 


In Geneva: Safa Msehli,, +41794035526  

In Dakar: Aïssatou Sy, +221774792141  

In Mauritania: +222 41 74 82 73


In Geneva, Charlie Yaxley,, +41 795 808 702

In Mauritania, Maria Stavropoulou,, +222 42782100

  • Survivor rescued by Mauritanian authorities after eight days at sea /IOM