A new tragedy on the Canary Islands route: 52 dead and only one survivor

2021 claims the lives of at least 428 migrants in the Atlantic, 30% more than in the previous year

3 min
A moment of the rescue of the inflatable boat, which brought only one survivor

BarcelonaThe Atlantic migration route, which connects the coasts of West Africa with the Canary Islands, continues to claim victims and is confirmed as the most lethal in the world. The latest known tragedy has a single survivor, who, aboard a precarious inflatable boat, watched as her 52 companions were dying. After seven days adrift, the woman was rescued when she no longer had much strength left and had to be transferred to a hospital in Gran Canaria, where she is in a serious condition but already on the ward due to severe dehydration from so many days in the sun and without drinking water.

Salvamento Marítimo located the boat on Thursday, 250 kilometres off the coast of Gran Canaria and found only the survivor, a native of the Ivory Coast, and two corpses: that of a 17 year old boy and a 20 year old girl who could be pregnant, according to the first medical impression, although this detail will have to be ratified by the autopsy. Of the rest of the travellers there is no trace. The disappearance of the corpses while doing this route is common, lost among the sea currents, and it is estimated that only about 5% are rescued, which further increases the trauma and pain of relatives.

Very weak and still in shock from the experience, the woman was able to explain how on 13 August the boat left the Moroccan coast with 53 people on board with the intention of reaching the Canary Islands. With one of their skates punctured, the boat was adrift and, without food or water, everyone died except her. Among the victims was a two-year-old boy who was travelling with his six-month pregnant mother, according to the association Caminando Fronteras. It is calculated that for every 19 people who reach Canary Island land, there is one who has died in the water, that is, that the route has a mortality rate of 5%.

The flow continues

Despite mobility restrictions and border closures, 2021 stands to be one of the deadliest years on this route, which was revived following the blocking of access to Europe via the Mediterranean to the islands of Greece and Italy by the European Union's anti-migration policies. The consequences of climate change, leaving farmers without fields to cultivate, or the decline of the fishing industry in Senegal as a result of agreements that favour European companies are some of the factors that explain why the flow of people leaving home to look for a new life not only does not decrease but increases year after year.

According to the International Organization for Migration, 428 people have died so far in the Atlantic, counting the 52 victims of this last known shipwreck, and the 326 that were verified in the same period of 2020 are far exceeded, but the United Nations entity already warns that its data are always a minimum estimate. The NGO Caminando Fronteras is currently trying to verify its own data, which multiply those given by official institutions thanks to the fact that they monitor the passengers of the boats that leave and those that arrive and often the shipwrecked themselves warn them that they are adrift - or the families themselves alert them because of the lack of news.

This week another tragedy was reported: the death of 47 migrants in a boat off the coast of Mauritania, in a shipwreck off the coast of Mauritania in which only three of them survived. The week before, a merchant ship rescued 33 people from certain death, also on their way to the Canary Islands. Fourteen of the boat's crew died at sea, including the skipper, whose rope to the boat came undone while he was bathing to try to clean himself and combat the high temperatures of so many days in the middle of the ocean, as reconstructed by a journalist from the Efe news agency.