As the dangerous journey from West Africa to the Spanish archipelago has become a more popular migrant route to Europe, the death toll has risen sharply.
About 60 African migrants are believed to have drowned while trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands, the latest tragedy during a year when the death toll from crossing the ocean has more than doubled compared to the same period in 2020.
Helena Maleno Garzon, Founder walking borders, a Spanish non-governmental organization that helps migrants, has been alerted Twitter That 57 people, including 12 children, had died. “End this border carnage,” he pleaded.
Ms Maleno later explained by phone that the victims were among 62 people who boarded a boat from the Western Sahara region administered by Morocco last week. It said 16 of the dead had been recovered and were in Dakhla, a port city in Western Sahara, where the journey began while awaiting formal identification. Only five survived the boat, she said.
“They were going around in circles as they lost their way, which is the case with a lot of boats leaving the strait, and then they tried to turn back when the tragedy happened,” Ms Maleno said. Maleno said. He said the exact details of the wreck and the rescue of a handful of survivors were not immediately clear.
The Canary Islands, in the Atlantic off northwest Africa, are one of the most dangerous migration destinations in the world. Recent reports have warned that the number of migrants trying to get there from Morocco and other places along Africa’s west coast has increased this summer, often with fatal consequences.
Since the beginning of 2021, “one” has been dangerous loss of lifeen route to the Canary Islands, the International Organization for Migration said in a report released a week ago.
August was the worst month ever, with nearly half of the 785 people – including 50 children – who died or disappeared while traveling from Africa to the Canary Islands so far this year.
The IOM, a UN agency, said the death toll had more than doubled same period in 2020. In all previous years, 850 migrants died on the Canary route, the highest number of victims since the IOM began collecting data in 2014.
Still, Frank Lazko, director of the IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Center, warned last week that the actual number of people killed at sea was probably much higher. “Invisible shipwrecks, with no survivors, are believed to be frequent incidents on this route but are nearly impossible to verify,” he said in the report.
Over the past two years, the Canary Islands have become a gateway to Europe for thousands of migrants, including an increasing number of ships from ports such as Dakhla in Western Sahara, a heavily militarized region where Morocco has long been included in the territorial area. Used to be. confrontation.
Migration experts believe that part of the increase in travel to the Canary Islands came after human smugglers revived that route after other crossings, particularly between Italy and Libya, became impassable.
Even as many die at sea, the influx of travel survivors has strained migration centers in the Canary Islands, one of Spain’s main tourist destinations. Last year, the Spanish government placed thousands of migrants who arrived on the island of Gran Canaria in hotels closed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Maleno said the distressed migrants aboard the boat had managed to alert her organization a few days earlier, and their calls for help were sent to the Moroccan and Spanish authorities, but to no avail. She said officials from the Ivory Coast and Guinea were rushed to help identify the victims, who are believed to have come from the two countries.
Spain also continues to grapple with an influx of migrants into its two North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, where many try to climb the border fences around them.
On Friday, Moroccan and Spanish border police prevented about 700 migrants from scaling Melilla’s fence, according to Spanish national broadcaster RTVE, citing unnamed officials from Spain’s military police and Melilla’s regional government.
Last May, thousands managed to enter Ceuta amid a political tussle between the Spanish and Moroccan governments over Spain’s decision to allow a separatist leader from Western Sahara to receive COVID-19 treatment in mainland Spain.