An average of about five migrants per day lost their lives attempting to cross the dangerous Atlantic Ocean to Spain between January and July 2022, the organization Caminando Fronteras has said.
At least 978 migrants died or disappeared trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2022, Spanish non-governmental organization Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) reported on Wednesday (July 21).
More than 80% of the fatalities or disappearances occurred during attempts to reach Spain's Canary Islands, some 67 miles (108 km) off the northwest African mainland, the migrant aid organization, which monitors boats in distress, announced.
The fatality figure is less than half of the 2,087 registered during the first six months of 2021. The group attributed the drop to fewer people trying to reach Spain due to Morocco tightening its crackdown on migrant crossings since Rabat and Madrid repaired diplomatic relations in March over Spain's stance on Western Sahara.
United Nations agency the International Organization for Migration (IOM), meanwhile, put the fatality or missing persons figure much lower at 312 in the first half of 2022.
Increased checks in Mediterranean pushes migrants to Atlantic
The journey across the Atlantic Ocean is dangerous, with strong currents posing risks to overloaded boats. Migrants often have insufficient drinking water and food supplies to last the journey to the Canary Islands, which in some cases could take over a week.
Many of the migrants depart from ports in Western Sahara, Mauritania or Senegal – some 1,500 kilometers to the south – in the hopes of reaching a better life in Europe.
Heightened controls on Mediterranean routes in late 2019 pushed the number of people trying the sea crossing to the Canary Islands to rise instead.
A total of 6,624 people arrived in the Canaries by sea between January 1 and April 30 – 50% more than in the same period in 2021, the Spanish government has said. But the number of migrants who entered Spain by sea fell by 35.7% in the second quarter of 2022 over the first quarter, AFP reported, citing Spanish interior ministry data.