Over the past four days, at least 14 migrants have died and a further 47 have gone missing in four separate incidents in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Moreover, 230 people were rescued off Spain's Balearic Islands. The Mediterranean and Atlantic routes are two of the busiest -- and deadliest -- migration paths in the world.
The most recent of the four incidents took place in the Alboran Sea, the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean. Rescue workers on Sunday (October 17) searched for 12 migrants who disappeared after their boat overturned while they were trying to reach the Spanish coast from Algeria, Spain's coast guard said.
A rescue operation was launched after a Norwegian sailboat reported picking up an Algerian man in the sea around 13 kilometers off the southwestern Spanish province of Almeria, according to a coast guard spokeswoman.
A coast guard helicopter discovered another migrant floating in the water in the same area and rescued him, the spokeswoman added.
The two survivors told rescuers that they had set off with 12 others last week from a beach near Oran in northwestern Algeria, around 100 kilometers away from the Spanish city of Almeria. Early Sunday morning, however, their boat's motor broke down and the vessel overturned.
The second incident took place further east, in the central Mediterranean. Citing a "judicial source," news agency AFP reported that four Tunisian migrants died and 19 went missing after their boat capsized on Sunday.
Farid Ben Jha, spokesman for the Mahdia and Monastir court on the country's east coast, said that seven of the total of 30 Tunisian citizens that had left Tunisia in the small vessel were rescued. According to AFP, most of them were young men.
AFP reported that one of the passengers managed to swim to shore and alerted the coast guard after their boat sank at dawn off the coast of the city of Mahdia, located only around 140 kilometers west of the Italian island of Lampedusa.
On Sunday, distress hotline Alarm Phone tweeted that the location of the shipwreck was between the Tunisian coastal cities of Monastir and Mahdia.
The Associated Press (AP) news agency spoke of at least two deaths, 21 migrants gone missing and nine survivors. Citing a coast guard official speaking on condition of anonymity, AP reported that the shipwreck was likely caused by bad weather and the boat being too small. The 30 passengers were five times as many as the vessel's estimated capacity.
According to spokesperson Ben Jha, four people were arrested for helping to organize the attempted sea crossing. He said an investigation had been launched to identify those responsible, AP reported.
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According to AFP, the third incident occurred last Thursday (October 14) off Spain's Atlantic coast, west of Spain's Cape Trafalgar.
After a boat carrying migrants was in distress, two men were found alive on board the boat and a woman was rescued from the water while the coast guard recovered the bodies of nine other passengers. Another 16 are reportedly still missing.
Cape Trafalgar lies on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the Strait of Gibraltar.
On Sunday, the body of a man was found dead on a boat carrying 44 other migrants that arrived at Spain's Gran Canaria island after a week in the Atlantic Ocean, a coast guard spokeswoman said.
The 44 migrants received medical attention and were then taken to the nearby port of Arguineguin to be processed, the spokeswoman said. All of the migrants were males, many of them minors, from the Maghreb region of northern Africa. The boat is believed to have departed from Morocco.
Over in the Mediterranean, the Spanish coast guard also rescued 18 boats off the Balearic Isles on Sunday, pulling 230 people -- including several women -- to safety, the government delegation in the archipelago said.
Gateway to Europe
Spain is one of the major gateways for migrants who depart from northern Africa to try to reach Europe.
Citing interior ministry figures, AFP reported that more than 27,000 migrants arrived by sea in continental Spain and the Balearic and Canary Islands between January and the end of September. This constitutes a 54% increase compared to the same period last year.
Crossing the Mediterranean and Atlantic to Spain is highly dangerous. According to the UN migration agency IOM, at least 1,025 people have died in 2021 trying to reach Spain by sea, making it already "the deadliest year on the migratory route to Spain." The actual number of deaths at sea is estimated to be a lot higher.
with AFP, AP