At least four people, including a child and a pregnant woman, have died after their boat capsized near Spain's Canary Islands. More than 40 other migrants were rescued by Spanish authorities.
An inflatable boat carrying around 49 migrants had reportedly been approaching Orzola on the island of Lanzarote on Thursday night when it flipped over a few meters from shore, throwing people into the water, according to Spanish authorities.
Emergency workers and residents rescued 44 people, including at least seven children, and worked overnight to Friday afternoon recovering the bodies of three adults, one of them pregnant, and a boy, Spain's national police said.
At least four migrants dead, twelve injured
Twelve rescued migrants were taken to hospital, according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais. The paper reports that Caminando Fronteras, an NGO, said Thursday that it had been alerted to the departure of an inflatable boat from the Moroccan coast, about 270 kilometers from Lanzarote. The NGO said that the migrants in the boat had been in contact by phone and had said that were having problems with navigation. Communication was then broken and could not be reestablished, according to El Pais.
Meanwhile 110 people in two boats reached the islands of Fuerteventura and El Hierro on Friday, according to the Canaries' emergency services.
At least 130 migrants dead or missing
In the last two years, the number of migrants and asylum seekers crossing the Atlantic Ocean from the coast of West Africa to the Spanish archipelago has increased significantly. More than 23,000 people arrived by sea to the Canaries in 2020 and nearly 6,000 have made the journey so far this year.
Border closures and restrictions on air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic have partly contributed to the increased traffic, along with tougher border controls to prevent Mediterranean Sea crossings to Europe.
According to figures from the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, the deaths on Friday in Orzola raise this year's toll on the Atlantic route to the Canaries to more than 130 dead or missing. Only 59 of those bodies were recovered. The IOM says the actual number of deaths is likely to be much higher than the recorded figure.