UN says 58 migrants dead as boat capsizes off Mauritania

Boat was carrying migrants trying to reach Europe from Gambia

Migrants on an overcrowded wooden boat wait to be rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The Ocean Viking, jointly operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, rescued 36 people from the small wooden boat after being requested to do so by Maltese authorities. (AP Photo/Renata Brito)
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At least 58 people are dead after a boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized in the Atlantic Ocean off the West African nation of Mauritania, the UN migration agency said on Wednesday.

The boat carrying at least 150 people had been low on fuel while approaching Mauritania, the agency said.

It said 83 people swam to shore and that the survivors were being helped by Mauritanian authorities in the northern city of Nouadhibou.

Survivors said the boat, with women and children on board, had left Gambia on November 27.

It was one of the deadliest disasters this year among migrants trying to make the perilous journey to Europe.

“The Mauritanian authorities are very efficiently co-ordinating the response with the agencies currently present in Nouadhibou,” the migration agency's Laura Lungarotti said.

There was no immediate statement from authorities in Gambia, a small West African nation from which many migrants set off in hopes of reaching Europe.

The coastal nation was shaken this year by the collapse of British travel company Thomas Cook.

At the time, Gambia’s tourism minister said the government convened an emergency meeting on the collapse, while some Gambians said the shutdown could have a devastating impact on tourism, which contributes more than 30 per cent of GDP.

Although home to some of the continent's fastest-growing economies, West Africa is struggling to generate enough jobs for its growing young population.

As a result, migrants continue to tackle treacherous routes to get to Europe.

More than 35,000 Gambian migrants arrived in Europe between 2014 and 2018, the UN said.