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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

by Dawne Bennett
Caribbean Net News Barbados Correspondent
Email: dawne@caribbeannetnews.com

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: More details are emerging about the circumstances surrounding the death of 11 people whose bodies were found on a boat off the coast of Barbados last month.

It now appears they were part of an original group of 52 who set out from Senegal last December. Interpol believes the unmarked, 20-foot-long motorised yacht they were found on had set sail from Cape Verde, off Mauritania, for the Canary Islands - a gateway into mainland Europe.

Farewell notes found in the craft, have been released. "I'm from Senegal but have been living in Cape Verde for a year. Things are bad. I don't think I will come out of this alive" one note read. Another said, "I would like to send to my family a sum of money. Please excuse me and goodbye. This is the end of my life in this big Moroccan sea."

Reports in the international press have indicated the men began their trip after paying a Spaniard about US$1,600 each for the trip to the Canary Islands. However, the boat ran into trouble somewhere near the Mauritanian port of Nouadhibou.

A boat was sent to its aid, but at some stage, the line was severed and the refugees who had no food or water, eventually starved to death.

Up to 40 other asylum seekers - from Bissau, Senegal and Gambia - may have been lost overboard in the storm-tossed Atlantic. It is assumed they were tossed or washed overboard as they died.

Police are hunting an unknown Spaniard believed to have demanded the money from the desperate refugees. The tragedy has sparked concern over the plight of refugees who have taken to the high seas and are still unaccounted for.

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