Spanish rescue authorities are facing a rise in boats arriving in the Canary Islands | Photo: Imago
Spanish rescue authorities are facing a rise in boats arriving in the Canary Islands | Photo: Imago

At least eight people have died and searches are continuing for at least one person believed to be missing after a boat capsized and sank off the Spanish Canary Islands on Tuesday evening.

A small boat overturned at around 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, November 24, as it was approaching the coast, a spokesperson for the Spanish emergency services told the news agency AFP.

The Spanish news agency EFE tweeted pictures from the rescue, saying that survivors were pulled ashore on rocks near the port of Órzola in the north of Lanzarote.

On Wednesday the head of the emergency and security services on Lanzarote, Enrique Espinosa, told AFP that his teams had recovered eight bodies and that there were currently 28 survivors. Emergency services said they were still looking for at least one person.

Searches continue

The boat was one of 17 intercepted in the islands' waters in the last 24 hours, reported AP, adding that about 450 people had been rescued from the other boats, and one died later.

Anselmo Petsana, the Spanish government's representative on the Canary Islands, said many of those arriving by boat possibly couldn't swim and there was "nothing more painful than to see bodies, people arriving on our coasts dead," according to AP.

Some Canary Island residents helped in the rescues alongside the emergency services, Petsana said. Many of those rescued have now been taken to the port at Arguineguin on Gran Canaria. AP reported that there are currently about 600 people present in the temporary camp from several different nationalities.

Set off from the Maghreb

The news agency Reuters reported that the boat was believed to have set off from the Maghreb region and was possibly carrying as many as 35 people.

The latest arrivals join around 18,000 other migrants (UNHCR’s latest data updated on November 22 puts the number at 17,752) who have arrived on the Canary Islands in 2020. About two thirds of those people have arrived since the summer. Some set off from the coast of Morocco and Mauritania, others attempt the much longer crossing from Senegal and Gambia.

The last time migrant arrivals were so high on the islands was 2006. At that time, the Spanish government signed repatriation agreements with several north and west African countries, as well as offering funding and personnel to help boost the coast guard capacity along the African coast to try and deter migrants from attempting the crossing in the first place.

Dead and missing

The UN Migration Agency IOM Missing Migrants Project confirmed the death and disappearance of 160 Senegalese migrants this year to the news agency AP. They admitted their information is "incomplete."

The organization Alarm Phone said it believed "more than 400 people from Senegal are believed to have died attempting the passage to the Canaries since the beginning of October 2020," reported the news agency Reuters.

In the last month, the Spanish government has again been meeting with counterparts in Morocco and Senegal in order to increase cooperation to try to stop migrants attempting the crossing in the future.


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