Spanish officials report that at least 227 migrants were rescued off the Canary Islands on Thursday, following the tragic deaths of over 30 migrants in the region. The migrants were travelling in inflatable boats close to the Atlantic Ocean Gran Canaria when the Coast Guard, assisted by emergency personnel, successfully saved them. Several individuals required medical attention for a mild condition and were taken to hospitals.
A day earlier, two charitable organizations, Walking Borders and Alarm Phone, expressed concerns that more than 30 migrants may have drowned when their dinghy sank off Gran Canaria. Spanish authorities confirmed the discovery of two bodies, including that of a minor, and the rescue of 24 survivors. However, the charitable organizations claimed that approximately 60 people were aboard the dinghy. Walking Borders’ Helena Maleno Garzon stated that 39 individuals, including four women and a baby, had drowned, while Alarm Phone reported 35 missing persons. These organizations monitor migrant boats and receive distress calls from those on board or their relatives.
Interestingly, the Spanish rescue service ship Guardamar Caliope was in close proximity to the dinghy on Tuesday evening, just an hour away. However, as the Moroccan officials had taken over the rescue operation, dispatching a patrol boat that arrived on Wednesday morning, the Spanish ship did not intervene. The timeline suggests that a Spanish rescue plane had spotted the dinghy 10 hours before the Moroccan patrol boat’s arrival, according to Reuters. The BBC has sought a response from Morocco’s interior ministry regarding this incident.
Angel Victor Torres, the leader of the Canary Islands region, described the events as a tragedy and urged the European Union to establish a coordinated and supportive migration policy. The Canary Islands, although located off the western coast of Africa, are part of Spain and serve as a destination for many migrants attempting to reach mainland Europe.
The Western Africa-Atlantic migration route is renowned as one of the most dangerous in the world. In 2022 alone, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported at least 543 migrant deaths or disappearances along this route. The IOM also acknowledges that these figures are likely underestimated due to limited and incomplete data. Most migrants on this perilous journey originate from Morocco, Mali, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
In a separate incident last week, a migrant boat carrying hundreds of people sank off the Greek coast, resulting in the deaths of at least 78 individuals, with fears that many more drowned. The UN’s human rights office has reported up to 500 people still missing, and evidence obtained by the BBC casts doubt on the Greek coastguard’s version of events. The coastguard claimed that the boat was headed for Italy and did not require rescue.