Migrants wait to disembark from a Spanish coast guard vessel in the port of Arguineguin on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, May 17, 2020 | Photo: REUTERS/Borja Suarez
Migrants wait to disembark from a Spanish coast guard vessel in the port of Arguineguin on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, May 17, 2020 | Photo: REUTERS/Borja Suarez

49 migrants were rescued off the coast of the island Gran Canaria on Sunday and 38 migrants arrived near Fuerteventura in the early hours of Saturday morning. The latest arrivals are part of a month-long surge in the numbers of those arriving on the Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic.

The Spanish authorities reported rescuing 49 migrants from a boat off the coast of the Spanish island Gran Canaria, part of the Canary Islands archipelago, on Sunday, May 17. During the night between Friday, May 15 and Saturday, May 16, 38 people were also rescued off another island in the archipelago, Fuerteventura.

According to the news agency Reuters, Spain's coast guard said they found a wooden dinghy drifting "a few miles off the coast of Gran Canaria on Sunday." The 49 male migrants aboard, of which at least 35 are believed to be under 18 years old, were spotted by a fisherman who alerted the coastguard.

Quarantine

They disembarked at the port of Arguineguin on Gran Canaria later on Sunday. Spanish Red Cross staff, wearing personal protective equipment, took the migrants' temperature and distributed warm blankets before taking the new arrivals into tents to be tested and begin a 14-day quarantine period. Red Cross members take the temperature of a migrant before disembarking from a Spanish coast guard vessel in the port of Arguineguin on the island of Gran Canaria Spain May 17 2020  Photo REUTERSBorja SuarezAll of the migrants come from sub-Saharan African countries, reported the Swiss online portal Nau.ch.

On May 16, the news agency AFP reported that 38 migrants were also rescued off the coast of another island in the Canaries archipelago, Fuerteventura. Fuerteventura is located about 100 kilometers off the north-western coast of Africa.

Migrants originate from sub-Saharan Africa

The Spanish news agency EFE reported that five of those rescued off Fuerteventura were children and nine women. It is thought the migrants come from Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Conakry. EFE wrote that the Spanish authorities believe their boat set off from Tarfaya in south-western Morocco.

Although overall migrant arrivals to Spain are down in 2020 compared to the previous year, the last month has seen an increase in arrivals on the Canary Islands.  

Reuters reports a 700% surge in the last few months, citing Spanish interior ministry sources. AFP confirms this figure, reporting that a total of 1,781 migrants had arrived on the Canaries between January 1 and April 15 compared to just 181 over the same period last year.

Arrivals on the Canary islands

Although the route across the Atlantic is more direct than crossing the Sahara and then the Mediterranean to reach Europe, the Atlantic is far more treacherous than the Mediterranean with higher seas, strong currents and stronger winds.

So far, the UNHCR reports just over 6,532 arrivals in Spain this year, with a little over 5,000 arriving by sea. 78% of all migrant arrivals to Spain are men, 10% children and 12% women.

Algerians and Moroccans make up the most common nationality of arrivals in Spain overall, but more sub-Saharan Africans, often from West African countries, make up the majority of arrivals on the Canary Islands which lie off the coast of West Africa.

With material from Reuters, AFP, and EFE

 

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