After reportedly smuggling over 230 migrants to Spain's Canary Islands "without any safety measures," 14 African nationals have been arrested on the Atlantic archipelago. Three migrants reportedly died during the crossings, which took place in January and February.
Spanish police said they arrested 14 suspected human smugglers on Wednesday who had smuggled more than 230 migrants to the Canary Islands. Three migrants had died during the crossings, one aged just nine, news agency Agence France Press reported on Wednesday (February 24).
The 13 men and one woman were "identified by the migrants as the organizers of the crossings and the people charged with navigating" the boats that were used, police said in a statement. According to a police spokesman, the suspects -- aged between 19 and 45 -- were nationals of Morocco, Mali, Gambia, Mauritania and Guinea.
The suspects had allegedly transported 237 people, including 26 minors, to the Canaries from Africa in December and January "without any safety measures, without safety jackets, food or water," the statement read.
Due to the "squalid conditions" during the crossings, the statement read further, three people died, including a nine-year-old boy whose body was thrown overboard into the Atlantic Ocean. Boat migrants can suffer from dehydration, weakness, hypothermia and burns from gasoline used to propel the vesself. These kinds of injuries and physical trauma happen especially on longer trips, not to mention the psychological toll.
AFP reported that after this death, the boy's mother had tried to commit suicide by throwing herself into the ocean. The woman was later taken to a hospital "in a state of shock" after the migrants were rescued by Spain's coast guard.
The suspects are believed to have charged each migrant between €2,000 and €2,500 per trip on their boats. "All 14 are accused of the crime of favoring illegal immigration," according to a report on AFP.
The six suspects who were involved in the crossings during which three migrants died were also charged with involuntary manslaughter. Three of the suspects face further charges including membership in an organized crime group, AFP reported.
Migrant arrivals on the Atlantic archipelago of the Canary Islands started surging last year: According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 25,000 boat migrants landed on the Canary Islands in the past 14 months -- more than six times as many as in 2019 and 2018 combined. Meanwhile, 849 individuals from African countries who attempted the dangerous Atlantic crossing perished or disappeared in 2020, IOM told InfoMigrants.
Many of the 807 boats that officially arrived on the archipelago in the past 14 months had set sail there from nearby Morocco and from the disputed territory of Western Sahara; however, some of these migrants had started their sea crossings more than 1,000 kilometers further south in countries like Mauritania or Senegal.