From file: Spanish rescuers were busy this weekend, pulling people from the waters around their Atlantic archipelago, the Canary Islands | Photo: Picture Alliance / Pacific Press
From file: Spanish rescuers were busy this weekend, pulling people from the waters around their Atlantic archipelago, the Canary Islands | Photo: Picture Alliance / Pacific Press

Spanish authorities said they found three dead migrants and 45 survivors in a boat which ran into trouble off the Canary Island of Fuerteventura on Monday.

According to a report on local Spanish news portal Canarias 7, the boat was about seven kilometers offshore when it made an initial distress call. There were 42 men, 2 women and one child on board -- in addition to three deceased.

"All those rescued were Moroccan, with the exception of one sub-Saharan African man," a spokesperson from the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo told the French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP).

When rescuers reached the migrant boat just after midnight they found three dead migrants and some others who were in a "very bad condition." The boat was not too far from the island of Fuerteventura, one of the islands in the Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.

Canarias 7 reported last week that a boat arriving with 63 people on board also contained a dead man. The man wasn't initially detected because he was covered by the clothes of his fellow voyagers.

The last seven days has been a "tragic week," reported Canarias 7. Five people lost their lives while attempting the crossing towards the Canary Islands. More than 700 migrants were rescued offshore or arrived on the Canary Islands since last Thursday, reported Canarias 7.

Rescuers busy all weekend

From the beginning of the year to the end of July, more than 9,000 migrants have made their way from various coasts in West Africa towards the Spanish Canary Islands. According to AFP, Spanish rescuers were busy all weekend, and pulled "nearly 600 people to safety in waters off the Atlantic archipelago."

Tightened patrols on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast have meant that more and more migrants from North and West Africa are choosing the Atlantic Route as an alternative to reach Europe -- despite the many risks involved. The numbers really started to increase sharply in 2019.

The shortest crossing point from Morocco is around 100 kilometers, but some migrants set off from the south of Senegal or Gambia and work their way progressively up the coast before attempting to bear west towards the Canary Islands.

Dangerous crossing

Most of the boats attempting to make this crossing are unsafe and often run out of fuel or their motors break part way across. Migrants who have survived the crossing have told InfoMigrants that sometimes their journey took a week or ten days.

Some said they repeatedly feared they would die en route, and many report either seeing someone die in their own boat or passing boats in the Atlantic full of dead bodies.

Last week, Senegal's police announced that they arrested 143 migrants who had been hoping to cross the Atlantic to the Canary Islands. The arrests were also reported by AFP, who said that at least 57 of those arrested came from outside Senegal. And at least one suspected trafficker was also arrested in the raids.

According to a police statement, reported by AFP, the suspect was "in charge of coordinating and boarding migrants on the coast bound for Europe for a payment of 300,000 FCFA or about €470 per person."

According to the UN Migration Agency IOM, more than 325 migrants died or were missing on the Canary Islands route since the beginning of 2022. However, other organizations such as the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) estimate that the numbers of those who have died is likely much higher.

Arrivals over the weekend

For the first quarter of 2022, Caminando Fronteras estimates that at least 978 people lost their lives on all routes to Spain and not just the Atlantic route.

The first 15 days of August, reported Canarias 7, has already surpassed the total numbers of arrivals for the whole of July.

On Friday last week, more than 400 migrants on eight different small boats arrived on the island of Lanzarote. Among them, reported Canarias 7, was a little girl of just seven years old who had died, and another child of six who had to be hospitalized after the crossing. A pregnant woman was also reported to be on one of these boats.

In another group of arrivals on Lanzarote on Sunday, Canarias 7 reported that at least eight babies were on board a rubber dinghy that is thought to have crossed from Morocco.

With AFP


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