Migrant deaths at sea off Spain triple


At least 631 African migrants died trying to reach Spain so far this year, almost three times more than in 2017 and the situation has become “alarming” according to the UN migration agency.

More than 120 migrants, from North and Sub-Saharan Africa, arrived in Spain each day during November, following a record month in October with over 350 per day, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.
“This is usually a time of slowing down on these routes, that is not happening in Spain,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a news briefing.

Migrants are using smaller and less seaworthy boats, he said.

About two dozen migrants drowned off the coast of Cadiz in November, he said. The sole survivor of another shipwreck, a teenage boy from Guinea now in hospital with severe hypothermia, told rescuers he was travelling with nine others including his brother in an inflatable row boat from Tangiers, Morocco.

The arrival of thousands of migrants in Europe fuelled the rise of far-right parties across the continent in recent years, although numbers have fallen over the past three years. Thousands of people, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, drown at sea.

So far this year 104,506 migrants arrived by sea in Europe and 2,075 died, according to latest IOM figures. Both figures are about two-thirds of last year’s totals and around a quarter of the totals from 2016.

While traffic on the main sea route from Libya to Italy has fallen sharply over the past year, in part due to agreements with Libyan armed groups to fight smuggling, travel increased across the western Mediterranean to Spain.

The route from Turkey to Greece, used by more than a million asylum seekers in 2015, was largely closed by an EU agreement with Turkey the following year.

In addition to migrants arriving by sea in mainland Spain, Millman said 36 migrants died trying to reach the Canary Islands this year, compared to just one last year, Millman said.
“So that is becoming also a dangerous channel for migrants seeking to access Europe through the Canary Islands,” he said of the islands, part of Spain in the Atlantic Ocean off the Moroccan coast.