Canary Islands: Child dies after urgent migrant boat rescue

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Emergency agencies in Spain’s Canary Islands say a child who was among dozens of migrants rescued from a boat drifting in the Atlantic Ocean has died.

Two adults and six children found on the boat some 185 kilometers (114 miles) southwest of Gran Canaria were evacuated by helicopter for urgent medical care Sunday, but one child did not survive, Canary Islands’ emergency services tweeted.

Approximately 40 more people were brought to land by Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service and disembarked in the port of Arguineguín, the service confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday.. A plane belonging to the Maritime Rescue Service first spotted the boat.

Red Cross official José Antonio Rodríguez said the rescued migrants departed from Dakhla, in the Western Sahara, eight days ago.

Migrant arrivals to the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago that is closer to Africa than to continental Europe, have been rising. Authorities say 14,720 people made the dangerous trip from January to mid-October this year. That’s an 83% increase compared to the same period last year, according to Spain’s Interior Ministry.

While many boats reach the islands, migration experts say many also disappear in the Atlantic without a trace in what are known as invisible shipwrecks.

So far this year, nearly 900 people have died or gone missing by trying to reach the Canary Islands by boat, and that might be a vast undercount, according to the United Nations’ migration agency. Spanish migrant rights group Walking Borders, for example, reported that it counted nearly 2,000 deaths on the Atlantic route during the first six months of the year.

Conflicts, poverty and other factors exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and climate change have led Europe-bound travelers to board boats along the West African coast from Morocco all the way south to The Gambia.

Increasing border controls and interceptions in the Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Southern Europe have also caused people smugglers to adapt by launching more boats on the Atlantic Ocean.


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