MORE than 4,400 migrants died trying to reach Spain last year, double the 2020 figure, according to a monitoring group.
Caminando Fronteras (CM) claims that a switch of migrant routes away from the Mediterranean to the perilous 100km crossing from Africa to the Canary Islands has proven disastrous.
The NGO says that nearly 90% of fatalities happened as a result of 124 shipwrecks on the way to the Canaries in the year up until December 20.
But the charity’s figures – released in a report on Monday (January 3) are at odds with ‘official’ figures from the United Nations International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
These put the number of deaths of people trying to reach the Canaries by sea last year at 955, although the IOM does admit the figures could be higher.
There has been a clampdown on migration across the easier Mediterranean route over the past 12 months.
The CM report says: “The deterrence and contention policies imposed by Europe and Morocco on Western Mediterranean routes have steadily pushed migration flows towards the Atlantic, making the Canary Islands the main destination for people on the move.”
The NGO claims that of the 4,403 deaths, 205 were of children. It estimated 2,170 deaths and disappearances on crossings to Spain in 2020.
Data was collected from migrant hotlines and families searching for missing relatives to reach the estimate, with CM also investigating every known shipwreck.
The charity blames not just the more dangerous routes but also the dilapidated and unseaworthy boats being used, as well as a reluctance on the part of some merchant ships to help pick up migrants in trouble.
The Policia Nacional in Spain arrested 202 people suspected of being people smugglers on the West Africa to Canaries route during 2021.
And the Interior Ministry says that 36,300 migrants reached Spain by sea last year, up until November 30, an increase of 1.4% over the same period of 2020.
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