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Nearly 800 migrants die trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands

Published: Updated:

The first eight months of the year saw 785 migrants die trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands, more than double than in the same period of 2020, a UN agency said Friday.

Among the dead were 177 women and 50 children, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced.

The worst month was August when 379 perished trying to cross from northwest Africa to the Atlantic archipelago to enter Europe, the IOM added in a statement.

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The total death toll from January to August is already the highest since records began in 2014, even for a full year.

In 2020, 320 migrant deaths were registered on the route from Africa to the Canaries.

Frank Laczko, director of the IOM’s global migration data analysis center, said the figures were almost certainly beneath the real total.

“We estimate that unseen sinkings, which leave no survivors, are frequent... but practically impossible to corroborate,” Laczko said.

A total of 9,386 migrants arrived in the Canaries by sea over the first eight months of 2021 – a 140 percent increase on the same period of last year, the IOM said.

Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, which monitors migratory flows, believes 36 boats heading for the Canaries disappeared without trace over the first six months of 2021.

The IOM also reported a doubling in the number of deaths of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to enter Europe over the first half of the year, compared with the same period of 2020.

The deaths rose from 513 in the first six months of last year to 1,146 from January to June 2021.

Migrant arrivals on the Canaries have surged since late 2019 after increased patrols along Europe’s southern coast dramatically reduced crossings to the continent via the Mediterranean.

The shortest route to the islands is more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Moroccan coast, but it is notoriously dangerous due to strong currents.

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