(October 9, 2012) - Six people died and 10 are still missing after a small vessel carrying 24 people capsized on Monday morning off the French territory of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported today.
“The capsizing is a reminder of the risks faced by people desperate to escape poverty, conflict and persecution,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.
“As in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aden, the seas around Mayotte are the scene of irregular movements of migrants and refugees searching for a better life or protection from persecution and war.”
This is the second such tragedy in a month, bringing to 69 the number of people reported dead or missing after incidents off Mayotte this year.
Most of these movements take place without the requisite documentation and involve considerable risk to those attempting them. Asylum-seekers account for a small proportion of these movements but their numbers have been increasing in the last two years, Mr. Edwards said.
UNHCR said that last year there were some 1,200 applications for asylum in Mayotte, 41 per cent more than in 2010. The largest proportion of applicants – about 90 per cent – came from the Comoros, with citizens from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Rwanda and Burundi, accounting for the rest.
- This report first appeared at the UN News Centre.
Welcome to Mayotte
Mayotte: Is an overseas department and region of France consisting of a main island, Grande-Terre a smaller island, Petite-Terre, and several islets around these two. The archipelago is located in the northern Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean, namely between northwestern Madagascar and northeastern Mozambique. Mayotte's area is 374 square kilometers and with its estimated 194,000 people is very densely populated. Its biggest city and prefecture is Mamoudzou. The territory is geographically part of the Comoro Islands, but has been politically separate since a 1974 referendum in which it elected to remain under French rule. The territory is also known as Mahoré, the native name of its main island, especially by advocates of its inclusion in the Union of Comoros. In a 2009 referendum, the population overwhelmingly approved accession to status of department. On March 31, 2011, Mayotte became an overseas department. (By Alex Ohan)