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Spain coast guard rescues 86 people during search for missing migrant boat

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    2 hours ago

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Image source, Salvamento Maritimo/Facebook

The Spanish coast guard has rescued 86 people from a migrant boat that went missing more than a week ago.

The vessel is said to have been 70 nautical miles (130km) south-west of the Canary Islands, and was carrying people from sub-Saharan Africa.

The coast guard was assisted by a container ship. Both vessels are now heading towards Gran Canaria island.

Two similar boats carrying dozens more people are said to be still missing. There are few details about them.

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Walking Borders, a migrant aid group, told the BBC that one had about 65 people on board, the other up to 60.

They are thought to have left Senegal on 23 June – four days before the larger vessel. This one sailed from Kafountine, a coastal town in Senegal that is roughly 1,700km from Tenerife, according Walking Borders.

The group earlier estimated that the larger vessel had 200 people on board – including many children – when it left Kafountine on 27 June, heading for the Canary Islands.

Those rescued include 80 men and six women. It is not clear whether all those who had been on board have been rescued.

The news comes just weeks after an overcrowded trawler sank off the Greek coast, in one of the worst Mediterranean migrant shipwrecks.

At least 78 people were confirmed drowned, but the UN reported that up to 500 were still missing.

The voyage from West Africa to the Canary Islands is among the most dangerous routes for migrants. They usually sail in dugout fishing boats that are easily tossed by powerful Atlantic currents.

Last year at least 559 people died at sea attempting to reach the Spanish islands, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says. The death toll for 2021 was 1,126.

However, the IOM says information about the number of departures from West Africa is scarce and shipwrecks are often not reported.

It adds that the migrants are often from Morocco, Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, or are of other sub-Saharan origins.

According to Spain’s interior ministry, 15,682 people arrived in the Canary Islands without permission in 2022, a drop of more than 30% compared with 2021.

“Despite the year-to-year decrease, flows along this dangerous route since 2020 remain high compared to prior years,” the IOM says.

Map shows west coast of Africa and Canaries where search for missing migrant boats taking place

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