PM says Guinea ‘haemorrhaging’ migrants after shipwreck tragedyFri, 10 May 2024 15:50:46 GMT

Twenty-six migrants who set sail from Guinea have died off the coast of Senegal when their boat sank, Prime Minister Amadou Oury Bah said Friday, adding that his West African country was experiencing a  migration “haemorrhage”.”We have officially recorded around 26 deaths so far,” with most of the victims leaving from the Matam district of the capital Conakry, he told journalists.Reports of the shipwreck had appeared on social media in recent days, but authorities had not until now specified a death toll. Relatives of those missing told an AFP correspondent this week that the vessel had left at the end of April, with the tragedy occurring at the beginning of May.Oury Bah on Friday spoke of the thousands of young Guineans waiting in various countries to be repatriated after trying to leave the nation.”We now have nearly 3,000 of our young people waiting to be repatriated in Niger, 1,200 in Algeria, 400 in the Arab Republic of Egypt, thousands in camps in Italy, not to mention those in the United States whose numbers I don’t know. It’s a haemorrhage for our country,” he said.Every year, scores of Africans fleeing poverty and unemployment in search of a better future embark on the perilous route to Europe.Many take the dangerous Atlantic route to Spain’s Canary Islands, involving days of sailing across treacherous currents in ageing open wooden fishing boats known as pirogues.- ‘Stay, work’ -In 2023, the number of migrants reaching the Canaries tripled to almost 40,000, the Spanish government said.Of the more than 6,600 migrants who died or went missing trying to reach Spain last year, the vast majority were lost on the Atlantic route, according to Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras.This is the route seemingly attempted by the Guineans who set off from Matam several days ago.Salif Keita, who identified himself as a spokesman for young people in the Matam district, said the boat had turned back for unclear reasons, according to the testimony of a survivor.The causes of the shipwreck are unknown, but Prime Minister Oury Bah on Friday denied claims that the migrants had been the victims of violence following an argument with the crew.He said such claims were made by those seeking to provoke a social “explosion”, adding that they could have “compromised relations between the two brotherly countries of Senegal and Guinea”.Guinea, which is poor despite considerable mineral and natural resources, has endured decades of dictatorial rule and suffers fuel shortages and power cuts.Oury Bah said that illegal emigration was a long-standing reality, but acknowledged that Guinea was going through “a very difficult time” economically.The country has also been plagued by years of crisis and political violence, culminating in the military taking power in a coup in September 2021.Oury Bah, who was appointed in February by junta chief General Mamady Doumbouya, said in March that the military would not honour their commitment to hand power back to civilians by the end of 2024.On Friday, he justified their continued rule with the need to “rebuild”, promising “a major economic transformation within two years”.”In the next three or four years, Guinea will not be the Guinea it is today. To those who have ambition: stay, work, take difficulty, take risks,” he added.