Over 1,000 African migrants reach Spanish islands in single day
More than 1,000 migrants from Africa arrived in Spain’s Canary Islands on Saturday alone, including a crowded boat that transported a total of 321 people, Spanish authorities and rescue workers announced over the weekend.
On Sunday ,the International Red Cross was quoted by Reuters as saying that the wooden boat that arrived on the island of El Hierro marked a record number of arrivals on a single vessel, surpassing the previous record of 271 on October 3.
A total of 783 passengers landed in El Hierro, 98 in Tenerife, and 150 in Gran Canaria, with the majority of those arriving being young adult males, although women and children were also among the passengers, the Red Cross reported.
An unnamed emergency services spokesperson told AFP that all of the arrivals hailed from sub-Saharan Africa.
The arrivals on Saturday add to the recent surge in illegal immigration, triggering a migration crisis in the Canaries. The seven islands of the Atlantic archipelago have become the leading destination for migrants aiming to enter Spain, with an increase in attempted crossings from African nations, including Senegal, this year. Walking Borders, a refugee support organization, reported in July that 951 migrants died trying to reach Spain in the first half of 2023.
According to recent data from Spain’s interior ministry, 23,537 migrants arrived in the Canaries between January 1 and October 15. The first two weeks of this month alone saw 8,561 arrivals – the most for a fortnight since a previous migration wave in 2006.
Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska has blamed the spike on the political “destabilization” in the Sahel. Countries in the West African region, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Gabon, Mali, and Niger, are all now under military rule. Sudan, which also witnessed a coup in 2021, has been caught up in an armed conflict since mid-April, killing up to 9,000 people and displacing over 5.6 million others, according to the UN.
Last week, Jose Luis Escriva, Spain’s migration minister, announced that the country would provide the Canary Islands with €50 million ($53 million) in emergency funding to assist local governments in dealing with the “extraordinary migration flow.”
While EU countries such as Italy and Germany have taken steps to tighten border security, the president of the Central African Republic, Faustin Archange Touadera, has accused the West of triggering the migration crisis by exploiting Africa’s natural resources and causing economic hardship through slavery and colonialism.
Touadera told the UN General Assembly last month that African youth are desperate to relocate to the European continent in search of better opportunities after Western imperialism rendered their countries poor.