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African Women, Children Joining Men as Clandestine Migrants


Security officials have caught hundreds of African migrants trying to illegally enter Europe this month. Migration officials say women and children, in small numbers, are starting to join African men on the dangerous sea crossing. Phuong Tran talks to an African woman who is saving money for her third boat escape, and brings VOA this report from Nouadhibou, Mauritania.

Henrietta Gizenga, 28, is a Congolese woman. She says she came to the port town of Nouadhibou after she left her home country the Democratic Republic of Congo last year

She says when she was three-months pregnant, uniformed men came to her house and killed the father of her children during the country's civil war that formally ended in 2003, despite continued fighting.

Gizenga says she came to the port town of Nouadhibou to try to make it on a boat leaving for the Spanish Canary Islands.

But when she arrived, she says it was not easy to make it out of the country.

She says the first time she tried to leave, police forces blocked the boat and would-be migrants from leaving the shore. Gizenga says she lost her $3,000 boat fee.

She says on her second attempt, police found out about the planned departure and arrested the Senegalese boat organizer at his house. She says she lost $1,500.

Gizenga says she is saving money to try again.

She carries her four-month-old baby, who she says she plans to take with her to the Spanish Canary Islands, a popular destination for Africans leaving from North and West Africa.

The International Office for Migration (IOM) reports 6,300 African clandestine migrants making it to Spain this year, down from 12,000 last year.

The IOM deputy director in Mauritania, Vijaya Souri, says while the total number of intercepted migrants has gone down, there are more women trying to leave.

"We have seen that there is an increase of women who are joining their fellow male companions on the journey to Europe," she said. "There are more and more women who are taking on this adventure."

Earlier this month, the Italian Coast Guard intercepted about 70 immigrants, including four women, children and three newborn babies.

This week, the Italian Coast Guard rescued a boat of 59 African immigrants off the coast of Libya, which included nine women and five children. Passengers said two pregnant women died during the trip and were thrown overboard.

The IOM's Souri says it is hard to know how many women and children attempting the journey die at sea because of the rough water and dangerous boat conditions.

Earlier this month, 14 dead migrants were found floating near a submerged boat off the coast of the Italian island Lampedusa.

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