Boat carrying migrants from Madagascar sinks; 34 Dive

Boat carrying migrants from Madagascar sinks; 34 Dive

ANTANARIVVO, Madagascar (AP) – Officials in Madagascar have recovered 34 bodies from the Indian Ocean after a boat carrying migrants hoping to reach Mayote sank.

According to Malagasy maritime authorities, the boat carrying 58 passengers sailed secretly without going through formal immigration or customs controls and sank late Saturday night off Madagascar’s northwest coast. Ports, Maritime and Fluvial Agency director-general Jean Edmond Randrianantenana said customs and navy patrol boats recovered the bodies near the island of Nosy Fali. He said according to preliminary investigations, the victims were mainly from Ambilobe and Tamatave, Majunga and Nosy Bay. “The entire state apparatus is outraged by this tragic incident. Also, we are applying all possible means to speed up the investigation,” Randrianantenena said. He said that local fishermen rescued 24 survivors from the sinking on the night of the sinking. All but one survivor “fled as soon as they reached the shore before the authorities arrived, no doubt fearing arrest,” said Lt. Col. Jules Tovoson Andriatsiriniana, commander of the gendarmerie group in the Diana region. “Only one young woman, pregnant, was found,” he said. He has been treated at Ambilob Hospital and is being interviewed as a key witness, he said.

Officers are looking for two people, a man and a woman, who are suspected of being involved in smuggling or transporting illegal immigrants. They are wanted for “illegal boarding and clandestine transportation, involuntary killing of passengers in Mayotte,” he said.

“It’s another shipwreck,” said Roger Charles Ivina, the International Organization for Migration’s representative for Madagascar and the Comoros.

“Unfortunately, there are no official national statistics of these tragedies at sea. But we see that they are really repeated departures, done secretly and the final destination is often Mayotte,” he said.

Although Mayotte is a poor archipelago of small islands, it is a French territory which may make it an attractive destination for migrants from Madagascar. He said the IOM has been developing a program for months to combat this illegal migration from Madagascar.

“One of the tasks of our project is to offer income-generating activities to potential migrants, in order to stabilize them in the community of origin,” says Evina. “Because we know, for the most part, people immigrate for economic reasons.”

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