Migration route by sea to the Canary Islands was deadliest

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MADRID – The year 2021 will end with a maximum number of deaths among people who tried to reach Spanish territory in boats without valid travel documents. Compared to 2020, this is an increase of 102%. People died on all routes, but the deadliest migration route was to the Canary Islands.

More than 4,400 migrants were killed (5%) or went missing (95%) on their way to Spain. This will make 2021 the deadliest year to date, according to aid organisation Walking Borders. The dead include people of 21 nationalities, 628 women, and at least 205 minors. The figure multiplies by 3.5 the records that the United Nations Organisation for Migration (IOM) has. It estimates the death toll on the routes to Spain at 1,255 in 2021.

Deadliest migration route

Walking Borders emphasises in its report that the deadliest route is the one to the Canary Islands. According to them, this is due to the ‘militarisation of the Mediterranean’. On the route to the islands west of Africa, 4,016 people of the 4,404 in total have died or disappeared. The victims drowned in 124 shipwrecks. That amounts to 91% of the total.

The Canary route is followed by the Algerian route, with 191 dead or missing in 19 shipwrecks and 95 casualties in 10 shipwrecks. Then follows the Alborán route, according to the data of the organisation.

More than 400 migrants were rescued from the sea on their way to Spain

The month of August was the most tragic month with more than 660 casualties at sea. The weeks of late May and early June were also very negative. Spain was then in “a diplomatic crisis” with Morocco. In those two weeks, 482 people died at sea.

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Nearly 95% of bodies never recovered

According to the document, in 94.8% of the 4,404 cases recorded in 2021, the people’s bodies never appeared.

The NGO’s founder and human rights activist, Helena Maleno, denounced the treatment given to the bodies that can be recovered. She explained to RTVE that in many cases the migrant is not buried as the family – who often cannot travel to Spain – wishes. Furthermore, there are cases where migrants are buried in anonymous ‘mass graves’ less than 24 hours after their rescue.

Maleno also criticises Spain’s focus on the ships that “don’t arrive” and does not publish other important figures, such as “how many ships or people attempt to reach Spain”.

‘Pain figures’ because in reality many more victims

Walking Borders has described this data as “pain figures” and points out that in reality there are far more victims of these routes than are recorded.

The activist says the organisation wants to highlight the situation in which migrants find themselves at sea with the report. What is happening at the European borders must be made more visible.

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