Spain’s Canary Islands see record numbers of African migrants seeking better lives

Nearly 32,000 West African migrants in search of a better life have reached the Spanish Canary Islands on boats this year, which is hundreds more than the record numbers recorded in 2006, according to authorities.

Reuters reported that regional authorities said 31,678 migrants made it to the islands – located nearly 60 miles off the west coast of southern Morocco – on small boats in 2006, but so far this year, 31,933 migrants have successfully made the voyage.

The Spanish Coast Guard said over the weekend, 739 migrants were rescued in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of El Hierro, about 235 miles from Western Sahara. El Hierro is the smallest and westernmost island in the Canary Islands.

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Of the migrants rescued, two were dead, and two others died in a hospital, the Spanish Civil Guard said. Among those rescued included women and children.

Canary Islands Regional Chief Fernando Clavijo told Reuters the numbers point to a larger scale humanitarian crisis faced by the islands, which he has called on the Spanish government and European Union to help out with.

“The 2006 data have been surpassed but the response of the State and EU is not the same,” Clavijo said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “Migration management on the southern border must be a priority on the Spanish and European agenda.”

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Another reason the number of arrivals increased so much is because of calmer seas due to milder weather in September, leading to a feasible chance of crossing over to the islands from Africa.

The archipelago consists of seven islands, the closest point being 60 miles from Africa’s west coast, and it has become a destination for migrants from Senegal and other countries seeking to reach Spain for a better life or to get away from conflict.

In response to the crisis, the Spanish government has said it will create more emergency accommodations for about 3,000 migrants in military barracks, hotels and hostels.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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