Senegalese youth gather around pirogues on the beach at dusk...

Senegalese youth gather around pirogues on the beach at dusk in Fass Boye, Senegal, Aug. 29, 2023. Officials in Senegal say at least two dozen people have died off Senegal’s northern coast and many were injured when a boat carrying migrants capsized. The boat was bound for Europe and capsized Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 near the town of Saint-Louis where bodies washed up on shore. Credit: AP/Felipe Dana

DAKAR, Senegal — At least two dozen people died off Senegal's northern coast and many others were injured when their boat capsized, officials said, underscoring the danger of the route used by an increasing number of migrants seeking to reach Spain from West Africa.

The boat was bound for Europe and capsized near the town of Saint-Louis, where bodies washed ashore Wednesday afternoon and the fire department was alerted, said Alioune Badara Sambe, the local governor.

The injured are being treated in a hospital in Saint-Louis and an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident has been opened, he said.

The number of migrants leaving from Senegal on rickety wooden boats surged last year, and nearly 1,000 people died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2023, according to the Spanish migration advocacy group Walking Borders.

Factors such as youth unemployment, political unrest and the impact of climate change push migrants to risk their lives on overcrowded boats.

Senegal has been thrown into turmoil as elections meant for February were controversially delayed by the president, sparking deadly protests. Elections have been proposed for June but it’s unclear when or whether the president, whose term officially ends in April, will step down.

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