ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — Officials in Madagascar have recovered 34 bodies from the Indian Ocean after the sinking of a boat that was carrying migrants hoping to get to Mayotte.
The boat carrying 58 passengers sailed clandestinely without going through official immigration or customs controls and sank late Saturday night off the northwest coast of Madagascar, according to Malagasy maritime authorities. Customs and Navy patrol boats recovered the bodies near the island of Nosy Faly, Director General of the Port, Maritime and Fluvial Agency Jean Edmond Randrianantenaina said. The victims mainly come from Ambilobe and also Tamatave, Majunga and Nosy Be, according to preliminary investigations, he said. “The entire state apparatus is angry at this tragedy. Also, we are implementing all possible means to speed up the investigations,” Randrianantenaina said. On the night of the sinking local fishermen in canoes rescued 24 survivors, he said. All but one of the survivors “fled as soon as they arrived on the bank, before the arrival of the authorities, no doubt for fear of being arrested,” said Lt. Col. Jules Tovoson Andriatsiriniaina, commander of the Diana region gendarmerie group. “Only a young woman, pregnant, was found,” he said. She was treated at Ambilobe hospital and is being interviewed as a key witness, he said.
Officials are looking for two people, a man and a woman, suspected of being the smugglers or accomplices in illegally transporting migrants. They are wanted for “illegal boarding and clandestine transport, involuntary homicide of passengers to Mayotte,” he said.
“It’s yet another shipwreck,” said Roger Charles Evina, representative of the International Organization for Migration for Madagascar and the Comoros.
“Unfortunately, there are no official national statistics on these tragedies at sea. But we see that these are really recurring departures, carried out clandestinely and the final destination is very 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. The IOM has been developing a program for several months to fight against this illegal immigration from Madagascar, he said.
“One of the actions of our project is to offer income-generating activities to potential migrants, in order to stabilize them in the communities of origin,” said Evina. “Because we know, for the most part, that people migrate for economic reasons.”