AS many as 39 people, including four women and a baby, are feared to have died en route to the Canary Islands after their dinghy sank yesterday.
The boat, which was reported to be carrying a total of 59 people, was issuing SOS distress calls for 12 hours in Spanish waters, according to a pair of NGOs monitoring the situation.
Alarm Phone, a migration-focused organisation, sounded the alarm yesterday morning when the boat got into difficulties 88 miles southeast of Gran Canaria island after departing from Agadir in Morocco.
They radioed that three people had already died on the journey as Spanish and Moroccan authorities dawdled over launching a rescue operation.
A source from the Spanish coast guard revealed that an operation was finally sent out by Morocco, which managed to rescue 24 people including two women.
Helena Maleno, the head of Spain’s Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) charity, called it a ‘new massacre in the Atlantic.’
“Spain has become a new Greece and behaves the same way every day on Europe’s borders,” Maleno said.
The survivors have been transferred to Cape Bojador ‘along with one corpse’, she added.
“The boat got into difficulty and sank,” said a spokesperson for Spain’s maritime rescue service.
“A rescue operation was launched by the Moroccan authorities and they told us that one of their patrol boats rescued 24 people this morning.
“They asked for our help and one of our helicopters recovered the body of a minor, which was taken to Gran Canaria airport.
“Later on, a container vessel that took part in the search operation located another body.”
The spokesperson added: “We don’t know exactly how many people have disappeared but there could have been as many as 60 people aboard the inflatable boat.”
Later, the coastguard announced via Twitter that a second body had been found by the merchant ship Navios Azure, but withheld further details.
The Canary Islands, situated off the coast of West Africa, have become a primary destination for migrants attempting to reach Spain.
A smaller proportion of migrants choose to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach the Spanish mainland.
A report published by Walking Borders at the end of 2022 highlighted that over 11,200 migrants have either perished or disappeared since 2018 while trying to reach Spain via the sea.
According to official figures from the Spanish government, at least 5,914 people have reached the Canary Islands between January 1 and June 15 this year.
However, this represents a significant 31.5% decline compared to the same period in 2022.
The early summer months are typically a peak time for migrants to embark on their journey across the Mediterranean Sea.
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