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10 Jul, 2023 18:03

Hundreds of African migrants missing off Canary Islands

Three vessels carrying a total of at least 300 people from Senegal have all disappeared, according to aid organization Walking Borders
Hundreds of African migrants missing off Canary Islands

Spanish authorities are searching the seas off the Canary Islands for a boat carrying at least 200 African migrants, including children that has been missing for nearly two weeks.

The vessel is said to have sailed from the village of Kafountine in Senegal's Cassamance region, about 1,700 kilometers from Spain's Canary Islands, in late June.

Helena Maleno, a human rights defender at migrant aid organization Walking Borders, told Reuters on Sunday that two smaller boats, one carrying about 65 people and the other 60 people on board, can also not be located since they left Senegal trying to reach Spain 15 days ago.

They are believed to have left the West African country on June 23, four days ahead of the larger vessel.

The Spanish rescue service said it had only received one official alert for the boat carrying 200 people, but that its plane was monitoring the area for any vessels in distress.

It said on Monday that one of its aircraft spotted a vessel carrying hundreds of migrants, suggesting that it could be the vessel that had been reported missing.

"The plane has found a large boat with some 200 people on board, 71 miles to the south of Gran Canaria," a spokesperson for the service is quoted by Reuters as saying.

In a recent report, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said at least 559 people died at sea in 43 shipwrecks that were recorded along the West African Atlantic route to Spain’s Canary Islands in 2022. The death toll for 2021 was 1,126 migrants with 74 shipwrecks, the IOM added.

Last month, at least 78 people were confirmed to have drowned, with the UN reporting that up to 500 were still missing when an overcrowded trawler from Egypt sank off the Greek coast.