Hundreds of African migrants, including many children, are feared missing as Spanish rescuers intensify their search efforts off the Canary Islands.
The fishing boat, which departed from Kafountine, a coastal town in southern Senegal approximately 1,700 kilometers (1,057 miles) away from Tenerife, carried at least 200 individuals.
Two additional boats, with dozens of people on board, are also reported missing. The aid group Walking Borders has alerted authorities to the dire situation.
In response, Spain’s maritime rescue service has deployed a plane to aid in the search and rescue operation. The vessel carrying 200 migrants set sail from Kafountine on June 27, destined for the Canary Islands.
While there is limited information available regarding the other two boats, Walking Borders’ Helena Maleno disclosed to Reuters that one boat contains around 65 individuals, and the other could have up to 60 on board.
These figures raise concerns about the total number of people missing, potentially exceeding 300 across all three boats.
This distressing news arrives shortly after Europe witnessed one of the deadliest migrant shipwrecks in the Mediterranean, where an overcrowded trawler sank off the Greek coast. Despite 78 confirmed deaths, the United Nations (UN) reported that approximately 500 individuals remain unaccounted for.
The perilous journey from West Africa to the Canary Islands is regarded as one of the most treacherous migration routes. Migrants typically brave the powerful Atlantic currents on simple dugout fishing boats, making the passage incredibly dangerous.
According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), last year alone, at least 559 lives were lost at sea in attempts to reach the Spanish islands.
The death toll in 2021 reached 1,126 individuals. Unfortunately, accurate data on the number of departures from West Africa is scarce, and shipwrecks often go unreported.
The migrants undertaking this hazardous journey primarily originate from Morocco, Mali, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, and other sub-Saharan regions. Spain’s Interior Ministry records indicate that in 2022, 15,682 people arrived in the Canary Islands without permission, reflecting a decrease of over 30% compared to 2021.
However, the IOM warns that despite this decline, the flow of migrants along this perilous route remains significantly higher than previous years.
The ongoing search for the missing migrants in the waters surrounding the Canary Islands highlights the urgent need for enhanced efforts to address the humanitarian crisis and prevent further loss of life in the region.