Spanish authorities say at least three people have died and four are missing after a migrant boat carrying nearly 50 passengers capsized in Spain”s Canary Islands.
The boat was approaching the shore of Órzola on the island of Lanzarote on Thursday night when it flipped a few metres from land, throwing the passengers into the water.
Emergency workers rescued 41 people, including 19 women and seven minors, all from sub-Saharan Africa. They also recovered the bodies of two men and one woman.
Spain’s national police said emergency workers continued searching Friday for at least four more people, including a child.
Two more boats carrying a total of 110 migrant passengers reached the islands of Fuerteventura and El Hierro on Friday, according to local emergency services.
In the last two years, the number of migrants and asylum-seekers embarking on the perilous Atlantic voyage from the coast of West Africa to the Spanish archipelago has increased significantly, with more than 23,000 arrivals by sea to the Canaries in 2020 and nearly 6,000 arrivals so far this year.
COVID-19 pandemic restrictions contributing to migrant surge
Border closures and restrictions on air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic have partly contributed to the increased traffic, along with tougher border controls to prevent Mediterranean sea crossings to Europe.
The latest deaths in Órzola raise this year’s toll on the Atlantic route to the Canaries to at least 130 dead or missing, according to the U.N.’s migration agency’s Missing Migrants Project. Of the deaths recorded so far this year, only 58 bodies were recovered.
The International Organization for Migration acknowledges the number is likely an undercount of the actual death toll, as not all reports can be confirmed.