350 die in year on Atlantic migration route to Spain

Las Palmas, Spain, Aug 12 (efe-epa).- Dangerous Atlantic voyages to Spain’s Canary Islands are taken by thousands of Africans trying to reach the country and has led to at least 357 deaths in the last 12 months, according to a report.

Over the last week 44 people were killed trying to reach Spain from Africa,17 drowned and 27 died from thirst, hunger and exposure, according to data provided to EFE by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration.

At least 63 others have been presumed dead after more than 20 days in the Atlantic on board a rubber dinghy.

Marta Sanchez Dionis, of the IOM’s missing migrants program, said: “We are sure that these figures underestimate the real number of deaths and disappearances.

“It is very difficult to accurately document the (deaths) that occur during migrants’ transit and mobility experiences.

“All the existing figures, including the official ones, are incomplete.”

Nonprofit organization Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) releases its own figures, which are consistently higher than those of the IOM.

It recorded 245 deaths from 12 shipwrecks on the Canary Islands route between January and March 2020, while 365 migrants had died in 2019, a tally which includes 155 more victims than the data released by the IOM.

As obstacles to crossing the Mediterranean Sea have grown steadily over time, most of the nonprofits supporting migrants have reported the Atlantic route has increased since 5 December when more than 60 people died off the coast of Nuadibu, Mauritania, when the canoe they had used to sail towards the Spanish islands from Gambia capsized.

Social organizations and emergency services are especially concerned due to similar incidents in the past.

The “canoe crisis” in 2006 lead to hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths among young Africans who set off across the Atlantic in increasingly bigger groups and ramshackle boats that were not strong enough for conditions in the area.

The distance from Morocco’s Tarfaya, one of the popular points of departure for the boats, to the nearest point of the Canary islands is 100 kilometers and people generally leave in rubber dingheys.

The distance grows to 150 kms from Laayoune in the Western Sahara, 760 km from Nuadibu, 1,450 km from Dakar and 1,600 km from Gambia.

A total of 3,531 immigrants have managed to reach the Canary Islands so far this year, five and a half times more than the number of arrivals within the same period last year.

The number of arrivals was the highest since 2008, when 9,181 people made the journey.

The Atlantic route began to be reused in August last year, according to the Spanish interior ministry.

There have been almost 5,800 arrivals in the last 12 months on 204 boats.

If the number is compared to the deaths reported by the IOM, one of every 16 people trying to reach the Canaries over the past year has died in the attempt.

The figures are still far below the 31,678 immigrants that landed on the islands in 2006 but nonprofits have found similarities between the two waves and warned that some features of the current migration movement are even more extreme.

Between 2005 and 2008, many of the people arriving on the Canary Islands were children or teenagers but this year hardly a week goes by without a boat carrying babies appearing on the horizon after days of non-stop sailing in harsh weather.

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