19th October 2021
Inflatable boat
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47 dead, 7 survivors, on migrant dinghy heading to Canary Islands

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, say the deaths of 47 people who were onboard a boat heading to the Canary Islands from North Africa’s Atlantic coast highlight the urgent need for more support to prevent further tragedies at sea.

The boat reportedly left on 3 August carrying 54 people, including three children. After two days at sea, engine failure left passengers stranded without food or water for nearly a fortnight. When located by the Mauritanian coast guard on 16 August, only seven people were alive on board.

Survivors were taken to Mauritania’s northern city of Nouadhibou for medical treatment. Four people in critical condition were transferred to the hospital. UNHCR is working to provide assistance and to determine whether any survivors have international protection needs.    

In a statement (link via Twitter post below), the IOM and UNHCR are appealing for more support to be able to continue their lifesaving interventions, including through screening, medical and psychosocial aid.

The latest tragedy comes just 10 days after another 40 people lost their lives along the same route. It adds to the spiraling number of deaths as more vessels depart for the Canary Islands. As of January this year, more than 350 people have died, while over 8,000 refugees and migrants have reached Spain using this sea route.

Migrants risk their lives trying to reach European soil by land and sea, and deaths are not uncommon in the area of the Atlantic that separates the west coast of Africa and Spain’s Canary Islands. Shipwrecks on the route are hard to verify, and many of the victims’ bodies are never recovered.

Inflatable boat
Archive image shows the remains of an inflatable boat on a beach in Barbate, Cadiz, used by migrants in 2018. (Jorge Guerrero / AFP)

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