ISSN 2330-717X

Spain Ended 2021 With Record Deaths In Dangerous Migration Routes

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By Fernando Heller 

(EurActiv) — The number of dead and missing on the sea migration routes leading to Spain via precarious boats – commonly known as “pateras” in Spanish – has doubled in 2021 to at least 4,404 people, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

The figure is 103% higher than 2020, a report by the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) revealed on Monday. The NGO had reported 2,170 deaths in 2020.

In what is the “deadliest” year on the western Euro-African border, 4,016 of 4,404 died on the dangerous Canary Route in a total of 124 shipwrecks, which represents 91.1% of the total, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

These numbers multiply by 3.5 times the records kept by the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which put the number of deaths on the routes to Spain at 1,255 in 2021. However, it warns that these are estimates that only include deaths in which the body is recovered or shipwrecks with survivors’ testimonies.

“4,404 is the minimum number. The reality is that there may be more victims and we have no record of them,” the spokesperson for Caminando Fronteras, Helena Maleno, said on Monday, noting that among these numbers, 628 victims were female and 205 minors. Throughout the year, there are at least 12 deaths per day or one victim every two hours, she added, as quoted by EFE.

According to Spain’s interior ministry, which collected fresh data up to 15 December, of the 37,385 “pateras” that reached Spain, 20,752 arrived in the Canary Islands, which would mean that one in five migrants attempting to reach the coasts of the Spanish archipelago died.

Regarding the other routes, 191 victims correspond to the Algeria route, with 19 shipwrecks; 102 to the Strait of Gibraltar, in 17 accidents; and 95 victims in 10 accidents on the Alboran Sea route.

Caminando Fronteras estimates that some 83 boats disappeared with all the people on board, with no survivors. The bodies of only 5.2% of the dead migrants have been recovered.

The NGO warned that the routes are becoming “increasingly dangerous”, with increasingly unstable “infra-boats” in a context in which it highlighted the presence of criminal networks and the “lack of experience” of navigation of the migrants on board, who often do not even carry a GPS or do not know how to use it.

“The victims of geostrategic conflicts are the migrants”, lamented Maleno, who noted, however, that the lowest death rate was recorded in March 2021, with 132.

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