Irregular immigration in Spain jumped 83% in 2023 with nearly 57,000 arrivals

Canary Islands saw record-breaking 39,910 arrivals

Alyssa Mcmurtry  | 04.01.2024 - Update : 04.01.2024
Irregular immigration in Spain jumped 83% in 2023 with nearly 57,000 arrivals Sub-Saharan migrants stroll around the outskirts of Las Raices Camp in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain on November 4, 2023.

OVIEDO, Spain 

Spain saw a dramatic spike in irregular migrants arriving by land or sea in 2023, according to figures published Wednesday by the Interior Ministry. 

With 56,852 migrants reaching Spain, last year saw 83% more irregular arrivals than in 2022.

The sharpest increase was in the Canary Islands, which broke its record for the number of migrants who reached its shores via the dangerous Atlantic route. In 2023, 39,910 people were recorded arriving, up 154% compared to 2022.

In total, 2023 saw the second-most irregular migrant arrivals in the country’s modern history. It was only surpassed by 2018 when more than 64,000 people crossed into Spain.

One of the keys to understanding last year’s spike in arrivals has been a big jump in small ships making the perilous journey from Senegal to the small Canary Island of El Hierro.

The flood of people seeking better opportunities in Europe and fleeing persecution caused the Senegal government to enact emergency measures in November to stem the growing exodus.

In 2023, Spain was the second-most popular destination for irregular migrants in the European Union.

To compare, Italy saw 155,754 migrant arrivals, according to government figures, up 50% compared to 2022.

Meanwhile, Greece, the third-most-popular country for irregular arrivals, saw 48,564 arrivals in 2023, according to UN data.

Spain’s Interior Ministry did not release data on the number of migrants who died trying to reach Spanish shores. But with record numbers of people taking the dangerous Canary Island route, that number could also be record-breaking.

In 2022, the Spanish migration organization, Walking Borders, estimated that 2,390 lost their lives trying to reach Spain.

Most of the tragic deaths, 1,784, occurred when people were trying to reach the Canary Islands, according to the NGO.

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