Spain: Over 1,300 African migrants reach Canary Islands

World Monday 23/October/2023 15:09 PM
By: DW
Spain: Over 1,300 African migrants reach Canary Islands

Canary Islands: Spanish authorities say 1,325 migrants reached the country's Canary Islands off the western coast of Africa by boat this weekend — with one carrying a single-vessel record of 321 people.

Authorities say all of those who arrived were from sub-Saharan Africa.

Spain's Interior Ministry has already documented 23,537 Canary Islands arrivals between January 1 and October 15 — an 80% increase over last year. This weekend's arrivals also come on top of a record two-week tally of 8,561 arrivals since October 1 — the most since a previous migration wave in 2006.

Images broadcast on Spain's TVE television Saturday showed a brightly coloured wooden boat overcrowded with smiling migrants who waved as they reached port at the island of El Hierro.

In all, 783 migrants landed on El Hierro, 150 on Gran Canaria, and 98 on Tenerife. The International Red Cross said women and children were among the arrivals, though the vast majority of arrivals were young adult males.

Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who visited the seven-island Atlantic archipelago last week, said the spike in illegal arrivals was directly linked to the political "destabilisation of the Sahel."

The Sahel region has seen a spate of military coups over the past several years, with the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Gabon, Mali, Niger and Sudan now all ruled by military juntas.

The Canaries have become a preferred destination for desperate migrants hoping to arrive in Europe from Morocco and Western Sahara since the EU tightened control of passage via the Mediterranean Sea.

Morocco and Western Sahara are relatively close to the Canaries (100 kilometres, 60 miles), whereas other migrants have embarked on far-riskier journeys from Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia, which are roughly 1,000 kilometres away.

At least 1,000 people have died along the route this year according to the charity Walking Borders.

On Thursday, Spain's acting migration minister announced the country would provide the Canary Islands with some €50 million ($53 million) in emergency funding to help local governments cope with the "extraordinary migration flow" confronting them.