Nearly 32,000 West African migrants seeking a better life have arrived in Spain’s Canary Islands by boat this year, hundreds more than the record numbers recorded in 2006, authorities said.
Reuters reported that regional authorities reported that 31,678 migrants reached the islands – located nearly 60 miles off the west coast of southern Morocco – in small boats in 2006, but so far this year, 31,933 migrants have successfully made the journey.
The Spanish coast guard reported that over the weekend, 739 migrants were rescued in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of El Hierro, about 235 miles from Western Sahara. El Hierro is the smallest and westernmost island of the Canary Islands.
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Of the rescued migrants, two were dead and two others died in hospital, the Spanish Civil Guard said. Among those rescued were women and children.
Canary Islands Regional Governor Fernando Clavijo told Reuters the numbers showed a larger humanitarian crisis facing the islands, which he called on the Spanish government and the European Union to help.
“The data of 2006 has been surpassed, but the response of the state and the EU is not the same,” Clavijo said on the social networking platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “Managing migration at the southern border must be a priority on the Spanish and European agenda.”
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Another reason the number of arrivals increased so much is due to the calmer seas due to the milder weather conditions in September, which leads to a possible possibility of going to the islands from Africa.
The archipelago is made up of seven islands, with the closest point 60 miles off the west coast of Africa, and has become a destination for migrants from Senegal and other countries looking to reach Spain for a better life or to escape conflict .
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In response to the crisis, the Spanish government said it would create more emergency accommodation for around 3,000 migrants in military barracks, hotels and hostels.
Reuters contributed to this report.