The bodies of eight people who died on the journey from Africa to the Spanish Canary Islands were brought to Gran Canaria at the weekend, along with dozens of survivors. Emergency services also rescued more than 75 people on board two other boats.
After drifting for a week without engine power, a small boat was spotted late Saturday, November 13, around 70 kilometers south of the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. The crew of a French yacht sailing in the area alerted the emergency services and a sea rescue cruiser then picked up 54 survivors, as well as the bodies of eight people who had died.
Three of the survivors were seriously ill – two with severe hypothermia – and had to be airlifted to hospital, Canary Islands emergency services 112 wrote on Twitter. Nine other migrants also needed medical treatment after arriving at Arguineguin port on Gran Canaria, the news agency dpa reported.
It was not initially clear how long the boat had been at sea. All the survivors, including two minors, were of North African origin, according to the Spanish news agency EFE.
The emergency services also reported on Sunday that another two small boats with a total of 77 migrants had been rescued – one boat with 36 migrants on board was found just south of Gran Canaria. The other group, rescued from waters north-east of the island of Lanzarote, included a woman with a baby. They were taken to hospital on the island.
Hundreds of lives lost
Thousands of migrants continue to set out from the coast of Africa in small boats in an effort to reach Spanish territory. Since the beginning of this year around 17,500 people have survived the journey to arrive in the Canary Islands.
Many lives have also been lost. The UN migration agency IOM has recorded around 800 dead or missing migrants on the route over the same period, but they say the real number is likely to be much higher.
According to the IOM, the route to the Canary Islands is extremely dangerous, in part because of the length of the sea crossing. The shortest distance is about 95 kilometers from the Moroccan coast, but nearly all journeys start in Dakhla or Nouadhibou in the territory of Western Sahara, from where the distance to the Canary Islands is up to 775 kilometers. As a result, migrants can be at sea for weeks, but without enough food and water for those onboard. The IOM says that many die of starvation or dehydration while at sea.
With dpa, EFE