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Four migrants die en route to Spain’s Canary Islands

Published: Updated:

Four migrants died during a perilous journey from the coast of Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands, which last year registered a huge surge in arrivals, rescuers said on Tuesday.

The four were found dead on arrival when a rickety boat carrying 47 migrants landed in Tenerife at dawn, the emergency services said on Twitter, citing Red Cross officials.

“This morning a boat carrying 47 sub-Saharan migrants landed on El Cabezo beach in Tenerife. Red Cross medics have confirmed four deaths,” it said.

Three others were hospitalized with “burns and other injuries,” it said.

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Migrant arrivals on the Atlantic archipelago surged after increased patrols along Spain’s southern coast dramatically reduced crossings via the Mediterranean.

The shortest route to the islands is more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Moroccan coast.

But the crossing is notoriously dangerous because of strong currents, and the vessels – often large open canoes also called pirogues – are typically overcrowded and in poor condition.

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In 2020, 2,200 migrants died trying to reach Spain by sea, of which 1,851 – or 85 percent – died en route to the Canaries, the Caminando Fronteras migrant rights group said late last month.

A total of 23,023 migrants landed on the islands in 2020, a figure eight times higher than the 2,687 who arrived in 2019, according to the interior ministry.

The surge overwhelmed the islands, where thousands had to live in makeshift encampments before being transferred to tourist accommodation or camps set up by the military.