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Spain rescues 86 in search for missing migrant vessels

World Tuesday 11/July/2023 15:06 PM
By: DW
Spain rescues 86 in search for missing migrant vessels

Canary Islands: Spain's Maritime Rescue Service on Monday reported it had rescued 86 people — 80 men and six women — sailing in a 20-metre (65-foot), multi-coloured pirogue, a canoe-like vessel popular in Senegal.

Spanish authorities would not, however, confirm if it was one of three vessels said to be carrying roughly 300 people from Senegal to the Spanish Canary Islands before being reported missing last week.  

Those rescued were expected to arrive in Spain on Monday evening.

Spain spots possible missing vessel
Authorities alerted boats sailing in the Atlantic between the Canary Islands and West Africa to remain on the lookout for other migrant boats still missing.

Earlier on Monday, Spain's coast guard said one of its reconnaissance planes has spotted what could be a vessel from Senegal carrying hundreds of migrants which has been missing for two weeks.

Several news outlets cited the Spanish agency as having spotted a large boat with some 200 people on board near the island of Gran Canaria.

"We do not yet know for sure if it is one of the missing boats. But the size and number of people on board is consistent with the information we have," a Sea Rescue spokeswoman said.

Earlier on Sunday, migrant aid group Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) said three boats with at least 300 migrants on board had disappeared off Spain's Canary Islands.

What do we know about the missing boats?
It is reported that the boats carrying African migrants, which took off from Senegal to reach Spain, have been missing for 15 days.

All three boats sailed from Kafountine in the south of Senegal, about 1,700 kilometers (1,057 miles) from Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands.

Helena Maleno from Walking Borders said one boat was carrying about 65 people and the other between 50 and 60.

A third boat departed on June 27 with about 200 people on board.

Migrants seek refuge on Spain's southern islands
Maleno said the families of those on board have not heard from them since they left.

"The families are very worried. There are about 300 people from the same area of Senegal. They have left because of the instability in Senegal," she added.

According to the data from the United Nations International Organisation for Migration, at least 559 people — including 22 children — died last year in attempts to reach the Canary Islands.

The islands have become the main destination for migrants trying to reach Spain and summer is the busiest period for all attempted crossings.

How dangerous is the migrant crossing to Spain?
The Atlantic migration passage, one of the deadliest in the world, is typically used by migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

At least 951 migrants have died trying to reach Spain by sea in the first half of 2023, migrant rights group Caminando Fronteras said last week.

The total includes 112 women and 49 children. Spanish figures show fewer boats arrived in the first six months, but the number of deaths is a little higher when compared to last year.

According to Spain's Interior Ministry, 12,192 people arrived by boat in the first half of 2023, 4% fewer than in the same period last year.