According to information released Monday from a U.N migration agency, at least 29 Africans, including seven girls, died last week while attempting to reach Spain’s Canary Islands on a smuggling boat.
On Friday, the Maritime authority in Spain rescued 27 migrants and recovered four bodies in the boat that was spotted by a fishing vessel 500 kilometres south of El Hierro, an island in the Canary archipelago off northwest Africa.
Helena Maleno, founder of the Walking Borders refugee group said at least 24 more people were on the boat when it left August 15 from Dakhla, a port city in the disputed Western Sahara.
Maleno’s organisation came up with the figure after conducting extensive interviews with relatives looking for their loved ones. She said only one of the eight children traveling on the boat survived but the girl lost her mother during the trip.
She said many of the women are fleeing conflict, rape, trafficking, genital mutilation and other forms of abuse but often face more violence while trying to escape.
“Many become pregnant and they are trying to cross with their very young children,” said Maleno.
Survivors testified that the remains of those who died during the journey were thrown overboard by fellow travellers.
The U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it had been informed by Canary Islands authorities of 29 total casualties, including a woman from Cote d’Ivoire who was rescued but died upon arrival at the port of Arguineguin.
The crossing, often on small, frail boats, from Africa to the Canary Islands is one of the riskiest migration routes for those attempting to reach Europe. Although the IOM has recorded 529 deaths within the year, the number is understated considering the number of unaccounted deaths and disappearances on the route.
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