Mystery over ghost ship migrants

Investigators searching the boat in Bridgetown

The investigation is being handled by several countries

Authorities in Barbados are still trying to discover how a boat carrying the bodies of 11 men was found adrift off the Barbadian coast a month ago.

Police believe the men were mostly from Senegal after finding an Air Senegal ticket on board and a note left by one of the dying men.

In the note, the man speaks of his family in Bassada, Senegal. “Please excuse me and goodbye”, he says.

It is thought the men were attempting to reach Spain’s Canary Islands.

Coastguards brought the 20ft (6m) unmarked boat into port at Bridgetown after the gruesome discovery was made by a local fisherman in April.

Barbados police have said the cause of the deaths was starvation and dehydration.

Local journalist Tim Slinger has been covering the story for The Daily Nation newspaper.

He told the BBC’s Network Africa programme that strong Atlantic currents had probably diverted the boat and that DNA tests would be needed to identify the men.

Things are bad. I don’t think I will come out of this alive. I need whoever finds me to send this money to my family
Note from Diaw Sounkar Diemi published in El Pais newspaper

Evidence on the boat, and calls to the Barbadian authorities from anxious relatives as far afield as Senegal, Spain and Portugal, have helped police and forensic experts to piece together details of the men’s fatal journey and how they ended up so dramatically off-course.

The investigation into the tragedy is being handled by several countries and Interpol.


Some 50 people were thought to have been on board when the boat left Praia in Cape Verde last Christmas.

The men, from Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Gambia, had paid a Spaniard based in the Canaries a total of some 50,000 euros ($64,000) for the journey.

The intended route was Cape Verde to the Canary Islands but it is thought the boat ran into difficulties and the Spanish man was contacted.

According to Spanish newspaper, El Pais, the boat was then towed for some way before being left to flounder with no fuel and little food and water.

Reports in El Pais suggest the tow line had been hacked with a machete.

Interpol has asked police forces around the world to try to locate the Spaniard.

For now, the bodies of the men are being kept in a morgue in Bridgetown while the investigation continues.

Better life

Thousands of would-be migrants attempt to make the hazardous sea crossing from Africa to the Canary Islands or Spanish mainland each year.

Some 7,000 migrants have reached the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean this year alone, but many die while attempting to make the perilous journey.

Earlier this month, Spain announced a three-year diplomatic drive in West Africa to try to stem the flow of African migrants to Europe.

Perilous journey


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