FOUR migrants have been found dead and several seriously ill after a boat was discovered 190 kilometres off the island of El Hierro.

The vessel was discovered on Sunday by a fishing boat operating south of the small island according to the Spanish Red Cross.

Three helicopters and a maritime rescue boast were deployed to retrieve the migrants and bring the boat to shore.

Of the 23 on aboard the small wooden vessel, four were found dead whilst 16 have been transferred to Tenerife in a serious condition.

The remaining are said to be in a ‘better state’ and are in the process of being documented.

This Sunday’s discovery marks the latest in a surge of migrant arrivals to the Canary Islands in the past 12 months.

According to the Missing Migrants Project, 23,000 people landed on the Canaries from the African continent in 2020.

And in the first three months of 2021, 3,400 have been recorded arriving by sea, a 50% increase over 2019.

Tragically, the increase also comes with a much higher death rate, with 850 deaths in 2020, bringing a total of over 20,000 since 2014.

Many cite the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of tourism in many popular resorts making arrival into Spain a much easier prospect for migrants despite the treacherous journey.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the Mediterranean passage towards the Canary Islands is one of the most dangerous migrant routes in the world thanks to its unpredictable weather and strong currants.

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