Search and rescue operations are underway for at least 300 migrants missing at sea, off the coast of the Canary Islands.
Reports indicated that a vessel carrying a large number of migrants had vanished while attempting the perilous journey across the Atlantic Ocean. The boat had embarked from Senegal, which has been grappling with economic hardships and political instability, forcing many to risk their lives in search of a better future in Europe.
The two boats, one carrying about 65 people and the other with between 50 and 60 on board, have been missing for 15 days, Reuters quoted Helena Maleno of Walking Borders, an aid group involved in the rescue operations.
The exact circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the boat remain unclear. But the incident is not the first of its kind – the news comes barely weeks after the Mediterranean Sea witnessed one of the “worst maritime disasters” ever after a fishing trawler carrying more than 300 refugees capsized near the Greek coast.
The Mediterranean and Atlantic migration routes have witnessed a significant increase in recent years as migrants from various nations undertake dangerous voyages to Europe. Tragically, many never reach their intended destinations. Last year at least 559 people, of which 22 were children, died at sea attempting to reach the Spanish islands, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says. Migrants are also vulnerable to abuse, violence, and exploitation, with reports of human rights violations and trafficking incidents alarmingly common.
Spain’s Canary Islands have become a primary destination for migrants attempting to reach the country, particularly during the summer. Just two weeks ago, another migrant boat sank near the Islands – authorities recovered two bodies, including a young girl, although the true number of those who were on board is unknown. 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.