A fishing town in Cape Verde prays for those who died on treacherous journey to Europe

A man prays in a Mosque in Fass Boye.
A man prays in a Mosque in Fass Boye. Copyright SEYLLOU / AFP
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There's sadness and anger after dozens of people who set out in a boat searching for a new life are believed dead.

The chief of the Senegalese locality of Fass Boye rang out his appeal over the mosque's loudspeakers: "Come out and attend the Koran recital for the repose of the souls of our sons, nephews and grandsons," declared Madiop Boye.


More than 60 people, most of them men from Fass Boye and the surrounding area, are presumed dead at sea after setting out from this small fishing town on 10 July. There were 38 survivors.

A total of 101 people had signed up for the voyage, all but one of them Senegalese. Their boat was spotted and rescued on Monday off Cape Verde after several weeks adrift, when it normally takes around ten days to reach the Canary Islands, a Spanish territory seen by many as a route to the European Union.

"Those who left are gone and will never come back. It's our duty to pray for them," says Madiop Boye. 

Under cloudy skies, dozens of people converged on the place of prayer in this town of some 20,000 souls on the Atlantic coast, about a hundred kilometres north of Dakar.

"Our young people have been leaving by sea for a hundred years, but this is the first time that Fass Boye has experienced a situation like this," he says.

Relatives and friends pray in Fass Boye.SEYLLOU / AFP

The victims succumbed to thirst and hunger, according to survivors quoted by the crew of a Spanish fishing boat that rescued the sinking craft off the Cape Verdean island of Sal.

"Of the 38 survivors, 32 are being accommodated in a local high school and six are in the regional hospital on the island of Sal; two of the six hospitalised are in intensive care, but most of the survivors are starting to regain their strength," Nuno Santos, a local civil protection commander, told Cape Verdean television.

"We are asking the Senegalese government to do everything possible to repatriate our sons who are still alive, and to bring back the bodies of those who have been found dead," said Mr Boye.

The Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is working to repatriate its nationals "as soon as possible".

"May such a tragedy never befall our village again," prayed the imam.

Sadness and anger


In the narrow dirt streets that border the religious building, people continue to come out and gather.

On Wednesday evening, sadness gave way to anger. Young people burnt tyres and blocked the main road with tree trunks, accusing the authorities of not having done enough to find the boat in time.

On Thursday morning, police vehicles were parked at the entrance to the town.

"Young people spend months at sea only to come home empty-handed," says Amedi Dieye, 53, who says he lost two brothers-in-law. "The authorities have sold off all our resources, so they are responsible for this tragedy."

"Many young people from the village who have gone to Europe buy cars and build houses on their return. My son also wanted the same thing," says Abdou Aziz Sène, father of a 25-year-old man who disappeared. 


"He wanted to go to Europe because he couldn't make a living here any more," he confides.

Senegal has suffered numerous migration tragedies in recent years. Sixteen migrants died on the night of 23 and 24 July when their boat sank near Dakar, just a few days after at least 13 Senegalese lost their lives off the coast of Morocco.

At the end of July, the Senegalese government presented a national strategy to combat irregular migration, focusing on prevention, border control, repression, and the return and reintegration of migrants. But departures punctuate life in Senegal's coastal towns year after year.

The residents of Fass Boye will gather on Sunday to pay their last respects to the dead and missing.

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