Seventeen dead as ship capsizes off Mayotte

14th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

MAMOUDZOU, Mayotte, Aug 13, 2007 (AFP) - Seventeen people, including eight children, were confirmed dead and 19 missing Monday after a boat carrying illegal migrants capsized off the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, police said.

MAMOUDZOU, Mayotte, Aug 13, 2007 (AFP) - Seventeen people, including eight children, were confirmed dead and 19 missing Monday after a boat carrying illegal migrants capsized off the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, police said.

Four survivors were plucked from the waters and evacuated to a hospital in the east of Mayotte, while a land, sea and air rescue operation was under way to try to recover the rest of the passengers.

The boat, a traditional wooden vessel known as a kwassa-kwassa, is thought to have sailed from Anjouan in the Comoros Islands, which lies a few dozen kilometres (miles) to the northwest of Mayotte.

Despite efforts by French authorities to stem the flow of clandestine immigration from the Comoros to the relatively prosperous island of Mayotte, shipwrecks and sinkings of migrant boats are frequent off its shores.

Five people have been confirmed killed and up to 55 missing presumed dead off the Mayotte coast in the past year in accidents involving kwassa-kwassa boats from the Comoros.

Mayotte is geographically part of the Comoros archipelago but opted to remain French when the other three islands chose independence in 1974.

French Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux issued a statement saying he lamented the migrants' death, explaining their vessel capsized after sailing into an area of rough waters to avoid detection by the Mayotte coast guard.

"This latest tragedy shows the dangers to which migrants are exposed by traffickers seeking to exploit their poverty, whether in mainland France or in Mayotte," he said, vowing to keep up the fight against people-smugglers.

Hortefeux said Mayotte "has been under growing migratory pressure from the Comoros for the past few years", and that more than 16,000 Comorans were deported from the island in 2006.

AFP

Subject: French news

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