One of 33 migrants rescued from a boat off the Canary Islands on August 10, 2021 | Photo: EPA/Angel Medina G.
One of 33 migrants rescued from a boat off the Canary Islands on August 10, 2021 | Photo: EPA/Angel Medina G.

Spanish authorities have arrested a man on charges of manslaughter, and aiding and abetting illegal immigration. He is accused of being responsible for an incident in the Atlantic that left at least 14 people dead.

The 43-year-old man was arrested at a reception center on Gran Canaria, local media reported on Friday morning. Spanish authorities believe that he is one of two men who captained a boat that set off from northwestern Africa in late July with 47 people on board. They believe that at least 14 people died during the journey.

According to Spanish daily El Dia, migrants had paid €2,000 each for the journey.

What happened to the migrant boat?

Spanish investigators said that the boat captained by the two men left the northwestern coast of Africa in late July after the migrants had already spent three days "suffering hardship in the desert."

According to local daily Canarias7, the boat ran out of fuel after three day, leaving the migrants adrift in the middle of the Atlantic for at least two weeks, and they quickly ran out of food and water.

In the following days, at least nine people died and their bodies were thrown into the sea, according to police investigators.

After Spanish authorities spotted the boat on August 10, a merchant ship was tasked with rescuing the migrants. During the rescue operation, another four migrants reportedly fell into the water and drowned due to adverse weather conditions. One woman made it onto the merchant ship, but died before a helicopter could evacuate her to a hospital.

Three people were evacuated by helicopter to Gran Canaria so they could receive medical treatment, the other 30 were brought to the island by the merchant ship.

Two suspected traffickers, one died

Spanish investigators said that they identified two men who captained the boat: The man who was arrested and another person who died during the crossing.

El Dia reported that the man -- a Moroccan citizen -- had already entered Spain irregularly two times before, once in Melilla -- a Spanish enclave in northern Africa -- once through and Maspalomas, a town on Gran Canaria. He now faces charges of human trafficking and involuntary manslaughter.

There have been several prominent cases in recent years in Spain and across Europe where people in charge of piloting a migrant boat have been charged with trafficking. In June, two men were arrested on suspicion of steering migrant boat to Canary Islands.

Some of these cases have been highly controversial -- such as that of a Somali asylum seeker who was sentenced to 146 years in prison for human smuggling by a Greek court earlier this year, even though other migrants said the man had only tried to save their lives after a capsizing.

8,200 migrants arrived on Canary Islands

Since the beginning of this year, 8,222 migrants have arrived via sea on the Canary Islands, according to figures were released on Wednesday by the interior ministry.

The Atlantic Route from northwestern Africa to the Canary Islands is one of the most dangerous migration routes worldwide. Observers estimate that one in four or five migrants who attempt the crossing die.

In the first half of 2021, at least 250 migrants disappeared -- and very likely died -- in the Atlantic, attempting reach to the Spanish group of islands, according to estimates from the UN migration agency IOM. However, the actual number of migrant deaths in likely much higher. NGO Caminando Fronteras (Walking borders) estimates that more than 1,900 died during that period.


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