Over 4,000 Migrants Died Trying To Reach Spain In 2021, Says NGO

File photo of migrants on a boat.


Over 4,000 migrants died or disappeared trying to reach Spain by sea in 2021, twice as many as in the previous year, a migrant rights group said Monday.

Migrant arrivals in Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic have increased since late 2019 after increased patrols along Europe’s southern coast dramatically reduced crossings to the continent via the Mediterranean.

This route is fraught with dangers due to strong currents and the greater distances involved.

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A total of 4,404 migrants perished or vanished in attempts to reach Spain last year, up from 2,170 in 2020, according to Spanish non-governmental organisation Caminando Fronteras, which tracks data from boats in distress.

That is the highest yearly number since the group started keeping records in 2015.

The bodies of the vast majority of migrants, 94 percent, were never found so they are counted as missing.

Over 90 percent of the deaths or disappearances last year, 4,016, took place during attempts to reach Spain’s Canary Islands.

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

“There are painful figures”,¨Maria Gonzalez Rollan, one of the authors of the annual report, told a news conference.

Migration routes to Spain were becoming more “feminised”, with 628 women and 205 children among those who died or went missing last year while trying to reach the country, she added.

The figures from the NGO are much higher than those from the UN International Organization for Migration which has tallied 1,279 deaths or disappearances of migrants on their way to Spain from northern Africa last year.

At least 37,385 migrants arrived in Spain by sea last year, according to Spanish interior ministry figures, slightly less than the 38,014 that arrived in 2020.


Volcanic Ash Halts Flights On Spanish Island

The Cumbre Vieja volcano, pictured from Tijarafe, spews lava, ash and smoke, on the Canary Island of La Palma, at night on October 10, 2021.  (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)


Planes were grounded on La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, for the second straight day Sunday because of ash from a volcano that began erupting a month ago.

Airlines scrapped all 38 flights scheduled for Sunday, most of them to and from other islands in the Atlantic archipelago off Morocco, an airport spokesman said.

Only four of the 34 flights scheduled for Saturday went ahead as planned.

Local airline Binter said in a statement it would “restart activity as soon as possible and as long as conditions allow flights to resume safely”.

La Cumbre Vieja volcano, which lies 15 kilometres (nine miles) west of the airport, erupted on September 19, spewing out rivers of lava that have slowly crept towards the sea.

So far no one has been killed by the continuous lava flows, but the molten rock has covered 750 hectares (1,850 acres) and destroyed 1,800 buildings, including hundreds of homes, according to the European Union’s Copernicus disaster monitoring programme.

About 7,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on the island, which has a population of around 85,000 people.

The eruption has covered a large area with volcanic ash and has been accompanied by dozens of minor earthquakes most days.

La Palma airport has had to close twice since the eruption began and airlines have sporadically had to cancel flights.

The head of the regional government of the archipelago, Angel Victor Torres, said Sunday that scientists monitoring the eruption have seen no indications that it is abating.

“We are at the mercy of the volcano, it’s the only one who can decide when this ends,” he told reporters.

Spain’s central government and the regional government of the Canary Islands have so far earmarked 300 million euros ($348 million) for reconstruction on the island, which lives mainly from tourism and banana plantations.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has vowed to “spend whatever money is needed to reconstruct this marvellous island”.

“We will be there until we have rebuilt 100 per cent of everything which this volcano has destroyed,” he added during an interview with private television La Sexta on Thursday.

It is the island’s third volcanic eruption in a century, the last one taking place in 1971.

Firefighters Stabilise Canary Islands Fire As Residents Return Home

A helicopter drops water over a fire at the Tamadana Natural Park in Agaete on the island of Gran Canaria on August 22, 2019.  DESIREE MARTIN / AFP


Most residents in the Spanish holiday island of Gran Canaria who were evacuated over a raging wildfire were able to return home Wednesday after firefighters aided by cooler temperatures and calmer winds managed to stabilise the blaze, local officials said.

Flames as high as 50 meters (160 feet) had complicated the battle against the blaze burning since Saturday on the western slopes of the volcanic island located off northwest Africa, prompting the evacuation of several villages with a combined population of around 10,000.

But as winds and temperatures fell, the fire started to subside.

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“It is stabilised. Weather conditions were good with low temperatures and higher humidity. If everything goes well in a couple of days it will be controlled,” Federico Grillo, emergency services chief on the island, told reporters.

But he cautioned that temperatures were set to rise again in the coming days and air humidity levels will drop which could rekindle the blaze, Spain’s worst wildfire this year.

“We still can’t guarantee that the fire does not have the potential to restart. We can’t lower our guard,” he said.

On Tuesday evening, some residents had already been allowed to go home as firefighters were subduing the powerful blaze, and so far some 7,500 people have returned, said Julio Perez, the security councillor with the regional government of the Canary Islands archipelago.

The cause of the fire, which at one point threatened to destroy protected natural reserves rich in biodiversity, is not yet known as rescuers have been unable to access the area where it started.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will on Thursday travel to Gran Canaria, which has been hit by three fires in just two weeks that have ravaged some 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of land.

Tourism on Gran Canaria has not been affected as it is concentrated on the island’s coasts.


Seven Migrants Die Trying To Reach Canary Islands – Police

File photo

Seven African migrants, some of whom “could be minors,” were found dead Monday as they tried to reach Lanzarote in Spain’s Canary Islands, authorities said.

Authorities found an inflatable boat off a beach with five bodies inside. Two migrants died after they got out while two others are in hospital in a “very serious” state, a spokesman for the Guardia Civil police force told AFP, though he did not know what the cause of death was.