Up to 39 people have died after the sinking of a dinghy near Spain’s Canary Islands, according to the Spanish NGO Walking Borders.
“A new massacre in the Atlantic is confirmed with thirty-nine people dead, including four women and a baby,” Helena Maleno Garzón, human rights defender at Walking Borders said on Twitter.
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She added that the people had been pleading for help and their boat had been in Spain’s marine territory for more than 12 hours.
Meanwhile, the NGO Alarm Phone also said that the 59 people on the dinghy who had left the city of Agadir in Morocco heading towards Spain, had also tried to alert Morocco’s Marine Royale, but they had not been reachable all night.
🔴 Se confima una nueva masacre en el Atlántico con treinta y nueve personas muertas, entre ellas cuatro mujeres y un bebé. La neumática llevaba más de doce horas suplicando un rescate en aguas de responsabilidad españolas.
— Helena Maleno Garzón (@HelenaMaleno) June 21, 2023
Out of the 59 people on the dinghy, a Spanish maritime rescue service told the Reuters news agency that 24 people had been rescued by Moroccan-led rescue efforts carried out about 141km (88 miles) to the southeast of Gran Canaria island.
Every year, thousands of migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan African countries attempt to reach Spain’s Canaries in packed boats.
But the so-called “Atlantic route” has proven deadly and many of those seeking refuge in Spain, after fleeing conflicts and famine, do not make it alive.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said that out of the 2,556 people who lost their lives trying to reach Europe last year, 1,126 were on the Western Africa and Atlantic route to Spain and 260 were trying to reach Spain in the Western Mediterranean.
“Risks and dangers along the West African Atlantic route remain and 45 shipwrecks were recorded along this route in 2022, resulting in the death or disappearance of 543 migrants,” the IOM added in its migration routes report in January.
In June, the European Commission laid out its plan to manage migration along the Western Mediterranean and Atlantic route. The plan involves tackling smuggling and coordinating migration management with non-EU countries like Morocco.
But NGOs and human rights organisations have repeatedly criticised the European Union for turning a blind eye to the deaths of refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe.
Wednesday’s boat tragedy came a week after at least 78 people died and hundreds went missing after a boat capsized and sank off the southern coast of Greece.
In a letter penned out on World Refugee Day, about 180 human rights organisations said “The European Union and its Member States have shown no intention of learning from the past few years and ending the dying in the Mediterranean”.
“Instead, they are escalating their deadly lockdown policies,” they said referring to the bloc’s latest migration pact to deal with asylum procedures.
“Activists and organisations denounce systematic push-and-pullbacks, rescue delays and omissions, the criminalisation of civilian search and rescue operations, and working with non-secure countries to externalise European borders and carry out deportations,” they added.