52 sub-Saharan Africans, including nine minors, were found on board a boat at the south of the Island of Gran Canaria on Tuesday evening and brought to Arguineguin, Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service said.
Emergency services reported that 10 people were admitted to the hospital, including a 25-year-old woman and a 2-year-old child, for “serious conditions.”
Authorities said a Spanish search and rescue plane was still looking for about 200 people on four migrant boats which had sent alerts the day before. It was not clear whether the boat rescued on Tuesday evening was one of the four that had called for help.
The Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean has become the main route for West African and Moroccan migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach Europe. Around 2,600 people have survived the crossing and reached the islands by boat so far this year.
In 2020, around 23,000 people successfully made the crossing. According to the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, more than 600 were reported dead or missing. Estimates by some NGOs are much higher.
A sharp rise in the number of migrants arriving in the Canary Islands last year put added pressure on the Spanish territory. Some residents have protested against the government’s handling of the arrivals.
The government has allowed only those considered to be vulnerable to be moved to the Spanish mainland, leaving around 9,000 adult migrants and 2,000 unaccompanied minors on the islands. Some have turned to hunger strikes and self-harm, fearing deportation and racist attacks.
A total of 56 people were picked up from two vessels in the Atlantic, a spokesperson from the Spanish coast guard said. One boat was found off Tenerife carrying 15 men. Simultaneously, a second was intercepted off Gran Canaria, carrying another 41 men, all of them from sub-Saharan Africa, the AFP news agency reported.
The coast guard rescued another 51 people on Sunday on a boat found off Gran Canaria, the spokesperson said. There were 49 men and two women on board.
Migrants and Supporters Join the Rally
About 1,200 people demonstrated on Tenerife island on Saturday, calling for migrants to be allowed to travel from the Canaries to the Spanish mainland.
Migrants and local supporters joined the rally, which took place in the town of San Cristobal de la Laguna in the north of the island. Some of demonstrators chanted “Freedom!,” the Canarias7 television channel reported, quoting migrants as saying the conditions in the camps were “unbearable”.
The large number of migrants arriving in the Canary Islands has overwhelmed the Spanish territory over the past years. Thousands of people lived in makeshift encampments before being transferred to tourist accommodation or camps set up by the military.
Transfers ‘Slow and Insufficient’
Under the Spanish government’s policy, most migrants are not permitted to travel to the mainland as they are considered to have little chance of being granted protection status.
Only migrants in need of special care are eligible to be moved to accommodation on the European continent. But the transfer of vulnerable migrants to the peninsula has been “slow and insufficient”, the newspaper El Pais reported.
According to El Pais, around 9,000 adults and 2,000 unaccompanied minors who arrived by boat over the past year remain on the islands.
The situation has led to anger among the local population. “[It] has been hard hit by the crisis and … feels abandoned by Madrid,” the paper added.