Spanish rescuers are currently conducting a search operation in the waters off the Canary Islands after a boat carrying approximately 200 African migrants went missing over a week ago. The migrants had departed from Kafountine, a coastal town in southern Senegal, with reports suggesting that many children were on board. Two additional boats carrying dozens more individuals are also reported missing.
The fishing boat, carrying around 200 people, set sail from Kafountine on June 27th, aiming to reach the Canary Islands. Spain’s maritime rescue service has dispatched a plane to assist in the search efforts. Limited information is available about the other two missing boats, but Helena Maleno from Walking Borders mentioned that one boat carried about 65 people, while the other had up to 60 people. If accurate, this would bring the total number of missing individuals across the three boats to over 300.
This incident occurs shortly after one of the worst Mediterranean migrant shipwrecks in Europe, where an overcrowded trawler sank off the Greek coast, resulting in at least 78 confirmed deaths and potentially up to 500 people still missing.
The route from West Africa to the Canary Islands is known to be perilous for migrants, particularly due to the use of rudimentary fishing boats that are easily affected by the strong Atlantic currents. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 559 people died at sea in 2020 while attempting to reach the Spanish islands, and the death toll for 2021 reached 1,126.
Although there has been a decrease of 30% in irregular arrivals in the Canary Islands in 2022 compared to 2021, the IOM notes that the flows along this dangerous route remain high when compared to previous years. The search operation in the waters off the Canary Islands highlights the ongoing challenges and risks faced by migrants attempting to reach Europe in search of better lives.