Sharp increase in the deaths and disappearances of migrants in attempts to reach Canary Islands

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is extremely concerned about a sharp increase in the deaths and disappearances at sea of migrants trying to reach the Canary Islands along the West African coast.

By the end of August 2021, IOM’s Missing Migrants 

Project recorded 785 people, including 177 women and 50 children, who had died or disappeared so far this year while heading for the Canaries. August was the deadliest month in terms of documented fatalities – with 379 lives lost – accounting for nearly half of the total number of deaths recorded this year.

The figures show a two-fold increase compared to the number of deaths recorded in the same period last year when about 320 people lost their lives on the Western Africa-Atlantic Route. In all of 2020, 850 migrant deaths were recorded on this route, the highest documented number of lives lost in a single year since IOM began collecting data in 2014.

Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Center, said the real number of lives lost at sea is likely much higher.

“Invisible shipwrecks, in which there are no survivors, are believed to be frequent occurrences on this route but are nearly impossible to verify,” he said.

Even when boats are reported in distress, it is difficult to determine the number of people lost.

In the first eight months of 2021, 9,386 people have arrived in the Canary Islands by sea, a 140 per cent increase over the same period in 2020 (3,933).

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