1st October 2023
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NGO report claims over 4,400 migrants died trying to reach Spain during 2021

Over 4,400 migrants died or disappeared during 2021, whilst travelling by sea to try and reach Spain, according to a report published on Monday by the NGO Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) – and which is double the number of 2020. 

This organisation – which collates figures based on telephone calls made by migrants, or their families, to their emergency telephones – recorded 4,404 deaths or disappearances, on the different sea routes to Spain in 2021. This equates to an average of 12 a day.

The figures make 2021 the deadliest since at least 2015, when the NGO began its records. The bodies of the vast majority (94%) of the victims were never located, so they are considered missing. Caminando Fronteras had recorded 2,170 dead or missing in 2020.

The data from this Spanish NGO for 2021 is much higher than that of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which recorded at least 955 deaths or disappearances on the crossing to the Canary Islands, and 324 on the route to mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands, with Morocco and Algeria as the starting point.

However, the UN agency still estimates that 2021 was a year of high mortality, the worst since 1997, according to its data and those of the Spanish NGO APDHA.

According to Caminando Fronteras, the vast majority (4,016) of the migrants disappeared trying to reach the Canary Islands – a route that has seen a sharp increase in recent years, due to the tightening of controls in the Mediterranean, as explained by María González Rollán, co-author of the NGO’s annual report.

‘These are the numbers of pain’, González said to the press, also highlighting that there were 628 women and 205 children among those who lost their lives or disappeared in 2021, according to the NGO’s report.

The coordinator of Caminando Fronteras, Helena Maleno Garzón, denounced the ‘lack of means’ to carry out the rescues and highlighted the responsibility of ‘criminal organisations’ of drug traffickers. She also criticised the lack of coordination between Spain and Morocco, due to their diplomatic fallout last autumn.

The Spanish Interior Ministry has said more than 36,300 migrants reached Spain by sea last year, up to 30 November. That was an increase of 1.4% for the same period in 2020.

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