Forty-one people were rescued alive and one body was recovered from a shipwreck off the Canary Islands on Wednesday. Survivors reported that 16 others remain missing.
The incident happened about 30 kilometers off the coast of Fuerteventura, one of the seven Canary Islands, which have been experiencing greater migrant arrivals for the last two years.
One of the rescued migrants had to be airlifted to safety by helicopter. Reportedly, attempts were also made to locate some of the other 16 missing migrants who survivors say fell into the water.
According to survivors' testimonies, a total of 58 people had boarded the rubber boat and departed from Cape Bojador, in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, Spanish coast guards said on Friday. The vast majority of those rescued were from the Maghreb region, reports news agency AP.
Migrant crossings remain at record numbers
On Friday, February 4, a total of 187 people of sub-Saharan and North African origins disembarked on the islands of Gran Canaria and Lanzarote after being saved from four inflatable boats by the Spanish Maritime Rescue.
About two-thirds of the migrants were taking to Gran Canaria while a third went to Lanzarote, according to reports published on the EFE news agency. Three of the rescuees had to be taken to hospital for medical attention. EFE also reported that 27 of those migrants were women and 15 minors.
Earlier in the week, the Moroccan navy rescued 63 migrants including three children after their vessel started to sink on their way to the Canary Islands. The NGO Alarm Phone said at the time that the group of migrants was facing "urgent distress."
And in late January, Spanish emergency services saved 319 people from seven different boats trying to reach the archipelago in the Atlantic.
Activists said that at least 18 migrants died during those operations, though there is disagreement over the exact number of victims in that instance between activist groups and the Spanish government.
Thousands dead in recent years
According to figures compiled by the International Organization for Migration's Missing Migrants project (IOM), at least 1,176 people died or went missing in 2021 en route to the Canary Islands.
Spanish rights group Caminando Fronteras, however, believes that number could be far higher at about 4,000. Most of the bodies of the dead are never recovered.
The Canary Islands are located just about 100 kilometers west off the African mainland at the most narrow point opposite the Western Sahara region; however, some migrants journey from places located thousands of miles further south, with some reportedly leaving from countries along the Gulf of Guinea.
A total of 22,316 migrants arrived in the Canaries using irregular means in 2021 — compared with 23,271 the previous year. The likelihood of dying at sea while trying to reach the archipelago is at least one in 20.
with AFP, Reuters, AP, EFE