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August 15, 2022
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More than 1,600 African migrants reach coast of Canary Islands at weekend

More than 1,600 migrants made the dangerous journey from northern Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands in small boats over the weekend, with at least one person dying on the way.

The archipelago is often the route taken by African migrants trying to reach the EU but emergency services said the arrival numbers over the last two days were the highest they had seen in a decade.

One body of a person was pulled from the water off the coast of El Hierro island, while a second was flown to hospital with an unspecified health problem.

More than 1,000 arrived on Saturday on the islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife and El Hierro, after making the journey on about 20 barely seaworthy boats, a spokeswoman for the Canary services said.

More than 600 migrants arrived on Sunday.

The Canaries, around 100 kilometres off the coast of North Africa, has seen an increase in arrivals this year after the EU, Libya, Morocco and Turkey reached border control agreements.

Migration experts also believe the Atlantic route from Africa to Europe is being more commonly used now, because of conflict in West Africa and Covid-related border closures.

More than 11,000 migrants have made their way to the Canary Islands since January, the International Organisation for Migration said, with 4,925 arrivals in October.

This is more than seven times as many as the same period last year.

At least 414 people have died trying to reach the Canaries this year, the organisation said, almost double the 210 deaths recorded in 2019.

During a visit to the archipelago, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said migrants should be sent back to their home countries unless they had refugee status.

At least 140 migrants died on Saturday after a boat caught fire and then capsized off Senegal’s north-west coast.

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