People trying to escape drought and war in Ethiopia and Somalia have drowned whilst trying to cross Lake Malawi in a small boat. At least 47 people are reported dead so far.
The boat was believed to have been carrying about 60 people when it capsized on the lake in the Karonga district of Malawi on Monday June 18, according to the BBC.
The South African newspaper, Times Live, reports on Thursday June 21 that the majority of the people were believed to be Ethiopians. Although the accident apparently happened on Monday, it is only in the last two days, as bodies washed ashore, that the details of the incident have come to light. A Malawi Police spokesman is quoted as saying:
"As of today, 47 bodies have been recovered with the bodies buried in mass graves because they had decomposed".
Searches are underway for possible survivors and for more bodies. It is thought unlikely that anyone survived the incident due to the coldness of the water at this time of year, winter in Malawi. The spokesman said:
"We believe the boat capsized due to overloading, and three Malawians have been arrested for aiding the operation with unknown Tanzanians".
There seems to be some confusion amongst news sources as to whether the drowned immigrants were from Ethiopia or Somalia with African websites such as Africa News saying the immigrants were Somalis. The site reports that the number of illegal immigrants trying to get to Malawi illegally by crossing the lake from Tanzania has increased although this is the first reported case of drowning.
Some sources are reporting that the ultimate goal of the illegal immigrants is to reach South Africa, seen by many as the source of better job prospects and lifestyle. Using Lake Malawi is just one route used by the immigrants to make their way south.