2023 was the deadliest year on record for those trying to irregularly migrate to Spain, according to a report published Tuesday by Walking Borders, with 6,618 people losing their lives, Anadolu Agency reports.
The vast majority of the fatalities, 6,007, occurred on attempts to cross the vast ocean separating north-western Africa from the Canary Islands, making the Canary Islands the most lethal migration route in the world, according to Walking Borders.
The Interior Ministry said 39,910 people completed the journey last year, a spike of 154 per cent compared to 2022.
Walking Borders said for many of the deaths, search and rescue operations were not mobilised or were delayed for so long that lives were threatened.
“The capacity to save lives exists. “If we used the same measures that we do to track cruise ships, fishing vessels or other ships with Europeans on board, this massacre would be reduced considerably,” the head of Walking Borders, Helena Maleno, said while presenting the report.
According to the organisation’s estimates, 84 boats trying to reach Spain disappeared with everyone on board.
One of the reasons 2023 was especially lethal is due to a spike in migrants chartering wooden boats from Senegal to the Canary Islands. On that route alone, an estimated 3,176 people perished last year.
“The young people dying at sea are considered opponents by the Senegalese government, which tries to make their deaths invisible. And the European Union is not protecting these at-risk youth who leave because of the political conflict and fear of reprisals,” Senegalese activist, Pape Sarr, said during the presentation of the report.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people died while making an even further journey from Gambia. Likewise, 1,418 died at sea while trying to reach the Canary Islands from Morocco and the Western Sahara.
Outside of the Canary Islands route, the next deadliest, with 434 victims, is the Algerian route through the Mediterranean. Nearly 200 more people also died trying to cross the Gibraltar Strait and the Alboran Sea.
Walking Borders found that those from 17 countries were killed trying to reach Spain. Most were from the African continent, but there were also victims from Palestine, Bangladesh, Syria and Yemen.