Associated Press, November 6, 2023
Spain’s Canary Islands have set a new record for the number of irregular arrivals to the archipelago, with more than 32,000 migrants making the treacherous boat journey on the Atlantic Ocean to the European Union territory this year. Most migrants are leaving from Senegal.
The islands, located near the African continent, have been used for decades as a stepping stone to Europe. Though the majority of arrivals are from Senegal, there are also boats departing from Gambia, Mauritania, Morocco and the Western Sahara.
According to an Associated Press tally of figures released by Spain’s Interior Ministry and local emergency services, at least 32,029 people landed there from Jan. 1 to Nov. 5 – exceeding the notorious migration crisis of 2006, when 31,678 migrants disembarked in the Canaries.
Smugglers in Senegal pack young people looking for better opportunities in Europe into old artisanal fishing boats. The journey from Senegal to the Canaries usually takes a week of difficult upwind sailing for around 1,600 km (1,000 miles).
Migrant boats frequently shipwreck or disappear in the Atlantic.
To avoid border controls along the coast, smugglers take longer journeys, navigating first west into the open Atlantic before continuing north to the Canaries – a detour that brought many to the tiny westernmost El Hierro island, at times overwhelming local authorities and emergency services.