Migrant Boat From Senegal Carrying 200 People Missing Off Canary Islands

[BBC] Spanish rescuers are searching waters off the Canary Islands for a boat carrying at least 200 African migrants who went missing more than a week ago.

The aid group Walking Borders says the fishing boat sailed from Kafountine, a coastal town in southern Senegal that is roughly 1,700km (1,057 miles) from Tenerife.

The group says many children are on board, Spain’s Efe news agency reports.

Two similar boats carrying dozens more people are also said to be missing.

Spain’s maritime rescue service told Efe that a plane had joined the search.

The boat with 200 people on board left Kafountine on 27 June, heading for the Canary Islands.

There are few details about the other two boats, however Reuters news agency quoted Helena Maleno of Walking Borders as saying that one has about 65 people on board, the other up to 60. That would bring the total number of people missing across the three boats to more than 300.

The news comes just weeks after Europe saw one of its worst Mediterranean migrant shipwrecks, when an overcrowded trawler sank off the Greek coast.

At least 78 people were confirmed drowned, but the United Nations (UN) reported that up to 500 were still missing.

The voyage from West Africa to the Canary Islands is among the most dangerous routes for migrants, not least because they usually sail in simple dugout fishing boats that are easily tossed by powerful Atlantic currents.

Last year at least 559 people died at sea attempting to reach the Spanish islands, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says. The death toll for 2021 was 1,126.

However, the IOM says information about the number of departures from West Africa is scarce and shipwrecks are often not reported.

It adds that the migrants are often from Morocco, Mali, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, or are of other sub-Saharan origins.

According to Spain’s Interior Ministry, 15,682 people arrived in the Canary Islands without permission in 2022, a decrease of more than 30% compared to 2021.

“Despite the year-to-year decrease, flows along this dangerous route since 2020 remain high compared to prior years,” the IOM says.

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