Record Number of Migrants Reach Spain’s Canary Islands

FILE PHOTO: A group of migrants in a wooden boat are towed by a Spanish coast guard vessel to the port of Arguineguin, in the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, October 21, 2023. REUTERS/Borja Suarez/File Photo

This year has seen a record-breaking number of migrants reaching Spain’s Canary Islands. With a total of over 32,000 people making the journey from West Africa in fragile boats, it surpasses the previous record set in 2006. Back then, 31,678 individuals successfully made it to the Canaries, but this year has seen 31,933 people reach the islands, according to regional authorities.

The recent surge in arrivals has been due to milder weather and calmer seas since September, making it slightly easier for migrants to attempt this perilous crossing from Africa. The Canary Islands, which lie around 100km off Africa’s west coast, have become the main destination for individuals from Senegal and other African countries who are seeking a better life in Spain or fleeing conflict.

The situation has become a humanitarian crisis, and regional chief Fernando Clavijo is calling for more help from the Spanish government and the European Union. He believes that migration management on the southern border needs to be a top priority on both the Spanish and European agenda. He expressed his frustration on social media, saying, ‘The 2006 data have been surpassed but the response of the State and EU is not the same.’ It’s clear that action needs to be taken to address this escalating crisis.

In just the past few days, the Spanish coastguard has rescued 739 individuals in the Atlantic Ocean off El Hierro, the smallest and most westerly island in the archipelago. Sadly, two people were found dead in four boats, and two others died later in the hospital. Among those saved were women and children, highlighting the vulnerability of these migrants.

To cope with the influx of migrants, the Spanish government has announced plans to create additional emergency accommodation. Military barracks, hotels, and hostels will be used to provide shelter for around 3,000 migrants. It’s a temporary solution, but it will help alleviate some of the strain on the islands.

While it’s essential to address the immediate needs of these migrants, it’s also crucial to focus on long-term solutions. The underlying issues that force people to leave their homes and risk their lives at sea need to be addressed on a larger scale. Only by tackling the root causes of migration can we hope to create a more sustainable future for everyone involved.

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