Nine dead on migrant boats heading for Canaries
Nine migrants have been found dead in the last 24 hours around the Canary Islands, emergency services said on Wednesday, amid a surge in new arrivals at the Spanish territories off the northwest coast of Africa.
Spain is in the process of setting up emergency camps for up to 7,000 people on the holiday islands as it seeks to tackle the huge influx, while it is also stepping up diplomatic efforts in various African countries to try to stem the departures.
Most of the lives lost over the last 24 hours came on Tuesday evening when a rickety boat carrying more than 30 migrants capsized off the northern tip of the island of Lanzarote.
Rescuers had initially given a toll of four dead after the boat went down, but they found another four bodies on Wednesday.
Enrique Espinosa, Lanzarote’s emergencies chief, said 28 people survived, telling the authorities the boat had set sail three days earlier from the Moroccan port of Agadir which lies some 420 kilometres (260 miles) away.
A ninth body was retrieved overnight on Tuesday-Wednesday on the south of Gran Canaria after the coastguard came to the assistance of a boat carrying 52 people, the coastguard said
More than 18,000 migrants have landed on the Spanish archipelago since the start of 2020, some two-thirds of them in the past few months, after making the perilous trip by boat from the African coast.
Around 500 people are estimated to have died by the regional government.
The current wave has echoes of the crisis of 2006 when 30,000 migrants reached the Canaries, prompting Spain to step up patrols and ink repatriation agreements.
The migrants — from Morocco as well as other poor or violence-wracked sub-Saharan countries such as Mali — see the Canary Islands as a gateway to Spain and the wider European Union.
Thousands have been sleeping rough on the islands in conditions denounced by rights groups.
With emergency accommodation overwhelmed, new arrivals are now being housed in hotels that were standing empty because of the coronavirus pandemic.