From file: Boats used by migrants to reach the Canary Islands coasts, are seen piled up at Arinaga port, in Aguimes, on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, on November 13, 2020 | Photo: REUTERS/Borja Suarez
From file: Boats used by migrants to reach the Canary Islands coasts, are seen piled up at Arinaga port, in Aguimes, on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, on November 13, 2020 | Photo: REUTERS/Borja Suarez

A two-year-old Malian girl died in hospital in Spain on Sunday after having been rescued from a boat packed with migrants. Images of attempts to resuscitate her had traveled around the world last week.

The girl was part of a group of 52 sub-Saharan Africans found on a boar near the island of Gran Canaria on Tuesday, March 16. The migrants were intercepted and brought to the port of Arguineguin by Spain's Salvamento Maritimo maritime rescue service. The girl was unconscious at the time of the rescue, having entered cardiac arrest.

Red Cross nurses worked hard to revive her body on the pavement of the port, as was seen on television footage that moved people in Spain and beyond. She was rushed to a hospital in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the capital of Gran Canaria, where she died on Sunday. She spent her last days alive in a critical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit, a spokeswoman for the health department said.

According to local media, the girl had been ravelling to Gran Canaria with her mother and older sister; she had suffered severe hypothermia at sea, suffering cardiac arrest by the time she arrived at the port of Arguineguin.

Red Cross nurses worked hard to revive the 2-year-old girl | Photo: Reuters
Red Cross nurses worked hard to revive the 2-year-old girl | Photo: Reuters


'The face of tragedy'

Angel Victor Torres, the regional head of the Canary Islands, said the death of the girl (who had mistakenly been identified as 'Nabody') provided a glimpse into the plight of those willing to risk life and limb for a better life: He said the two-year-old became "the face of the humanitarian tragedy of immigration," he wrote on Twitter.

"She sought a better life, she was two. Rest in peace."

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the death of the girl was "a wake-up call for everyone."

"There are no words to describe so much heartache," he tweeted. 

A dangerous migrant route

The Canary Islands have become a major entry point for migrants coming to Europe during the last year. In 2020, a total of 23,023 migrants landed on the islands -- eight times more than the previous year. In 2021, nearly 3,000 migrants have made their way to the Spanish islands so far, reflecting a trend that appears to point at a doubling of numbers.

The sea crossing to the islands from the Moroccan coast is more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) long; however, it is a notoriously dangerous journey due to the strong currents at sea. Most vessels are typically in poor condition or have been built in an improvised manner, and they're always overcrowded. And many migrants depart from other farther-away places like Dakhla in the disputed Western Sahara territory, which adds days to their journeys.

In 2020 1,851 people died on the route, according to the Caminando Fronteras organization which monitors migrant flows to Spain. The girl's death was the 19th in 2021 -- and is unlikely to be the last. "Although it's the route with the highest mortality rate, it is becoming increasingly busy: people are taking the risk because of the increased patrols along the Mediterranean routes," the NGO told the AFP news agency.

With AFP

 

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