Irregular migrants including children die crossing the Indian Ocean

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People wade out to smugglers' boats

More than 20 migrants are dead or missing after their boat sank on Saturday off the French territory of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean according to the UN Refugee agency UNHCR.

The boat which is said to have been carrying about 40 people had set sail from the island of Anjouan in the Comoros Islands.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the bodies of two children and a baby are among those that have been found so far.

"This incident is a further tragic illustration of the dangers faced by people who take desperate measures to escape poverty, conflict and persecution. As in the Mediterranean Sea or 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. For decades, people have been using small open vessels known as "kwassa-kwassa" to sail from the Comoros Islands into the more prosperous French territory of Mayotte. Many of these movements take place without the requisite documentation and involve considerable risk to those attempting them." Duration: 35″

UNHCR says that Mayotte, where over 1200 applications for asylum were registered last year, is a major destination for irregular migrants from Central and Southern Africa.

Duration 36″

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