Life, Europe

Spanish police rescue 105 migrants in tiny boat off West African coast

On migration routes to and within Europe, around one-third of all deaths have occurred on route to Spain’s Canary Islands

Alyssa McMurtry   | 21.12.2021
Spanish police rescue 105 migrants in tiny boat off West African coast

OVIEDO, Spain

Spanish police said Tuesday that they rescued 105 migrants who were adrift at sea in a small boat between the Canary Islands and the West African coast.

They had been at sea for more than two weeks but were still 440 miles from the Spanish Canary Islands and 160 miles from Nouadhibou, Mauritania.

When Spanish police arrived, many people could not walk due to exhaustion and dehydration.

It took three days to reach Spain on the rescue ship and most were able to recover by the time they arrived at the Spanish island of Tenerife. Three people, however, had to be treated in a local hospital.

Police said everyone on the cayuco, a small homemade canoe, was male and from Sub-Saharan Africa.

So far this year, nearly 21,000 migrants have successfully taken the treacherous journey through the Atlantic to reach the Canary Islands, according to the Interior Ministry.

That is just 4.8% fewer people than at the same time in 2020 when the migration system of Gran Canaria island basically collapsed due to the historic influx of arrivals.

Yet, this year, the route has claimed more lives than ever before.

A record 937 people were confirmed to have died on the route this year, but the phenomenon of “invisible shipwrecks” could account for hundreds of more deaths, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The organization Caminando Fronteras estimates that 2,087 people died in the first half of 2021 – nearly the same number thought to have died throughout the whole of 2020.

This year, the route to the Canary Islands has been the scene of around one-third of all 2,720 confirmed deaths on migration routes to and within Europe. It also represents more than one-fifth of the 4,470 migrant deaths that the IOM has confirmed so far this year across the globe.

“Mass tragedies involving migration have increasingly become normalized,” said the organization in a statement, urging states to do more to reduce the risks that people are forced to take during migration journeys.

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