associated press uncovers story mysterious mauritanian boat
For nearly a couple of years, the Associated Press vigorously and meticulously searched across three continents to uncover the story of a mysterious boat that sailed from Mauritania – and the people it carried to death as they drifted across the Atlantic Ocean and were found in Tobago on May 28, 2021.
A large country in northwest Africa, Mauritania is located nearly 4,800 km from the Caribbean island of Tobago. Evidence found on the boat suggested the dead were potentially African migrants who were attempting to reach Europe for a better life but got lost in the ocean.
The AP investigation included police documents, DNA testing, and interviews with officials, forensic experts, and relatives and friends of missing migrants. Here is what we learned.
1. 43 young men from West African nations, including Mauritania, Senegal, and Mali, are believed to have boarded the boat 135 days prior to their bodies being found in Tobago. AP has been able to identify at least 33 of them by name so far.
2. The boat sailed off in the middle of the night between January 12 and 13 from the Mauritanian port city of Nouadhbibou.
3. Out of the 14 bodies and additional skeletal remains found on the island, one migrant has been identified through clothing and DNA testing, bringing closure to one family and opening the way for other families to identify their loved ones.
In 2021, a minimum of 7 boats, potentially from Northwest Africa, appeared in the Caribbean and Brazil. All carried dead bodies. Years of efforts and billions of dollars spent by European countries to stop illegal migrant crossings on the Mediterranean Sea are in part responsible for these “ghost boats”, unintendedly.
The crackdown, on top of an economic disruption triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic and several other factors, compelled scores of migrants to return to the far longer and more dangerous Atlantic route to Europe via the Canaries.
Thousands of people died or disappeared trying to reach the Canaries on the Atlantic route in 2021. But the actual death toll is still quite unclear.