Canary Islands: migrant boat sinks off coast of Spain - what happened, were they rescued, how many fatalities?

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Scores of migrants have been rescued by authorities in Spain but a man and a child have tragically been confirmed dead

Dozens of migrants are still missing after multiple boats sank this week in the waters between northwest Africa and Spain’s Canary Islands.

Two people - a man and a child - were tragically confirmed dead in the disaster after their bodies were retrieved from the water. Hundreds more migrants were fortunately rescued from the Atlantic near Lanzarote and Gran Canaria, with Spanish emergency services saying they helped a total of 227 after their inflatable boats came into trouble. Some have been taken to hospital to be treated.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It comes a little over week after a migrant boat carrying hundreds of people sank off the coast of Greece. At least 78 people are known to have died, but many more are feared to have drowned - with the United Nations’ human rights office saying up to 500 people are still missing.

What happened in the Canary Islands?

News first broke of the disaster on Wednesday (21 June), when it was reported that a dinghy carrying migrants had sunk about 100 miles south-east of Gran Canaria. The bodies of a child and a man were sadly recovered, but emergency services from Morocco said they had rescued 24 other people.

But charity Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) said about 60 people had been on board, meaning it feared more than 30 others may have drowned. The charity also accused authorities of failing to assist the migrants in time, after it was revealed that a Spanish rescue service ship - the Guardamar Caliope - was only about an hour’s sail from the dinghy.

About fourty migrants, fom various origins, board an inflatable boat before they attempt to cross the Channel illegally to Britain, near the northern French city of Gravelines on July 11, 2022. (Photo by Denis Charlet / AFP) (Photo by DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images)About fourty migrants, fom various origins, board an inflatable boat before they attempt to cross the Channel illegally to Britain, near the northern French city of Gravelines on July 11, 2022. (Photo by Denis Charlet / AFP) (Photo by DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images)
About fourty migrants, fom various origins, board an inflatable boat before they attempt to cross the Channel illegally to Britain, near the northern French city of Gravelines on July 11, 2022. (Photo by Denis Charlet / AFP) (Photo by DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

However, the ship did not help the dinghy because the operation had been taken over by officials from Morocco. The country dispatched a patrol boat that arrived early on Wednesday - but according to Reuters, this was around 10 hours after it had been spotted by a Spanish rescue plane.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Separately, more boats were soon reported in trouble however, and emergency services from Spain attended the scenes. 53 migrants were reportedly saved near the island of Lanzarote, and another 61 near the island of Gran Canaria. On Thursday (24 June), more boats were intercepted by Spain’s coastguard - with more migrants rescued from the waters.

Did anyone die?

It has been confirmed that a child and a man died in the boat incidents, as their bodies have been recovered. Many more are feared dead, and Helena Maleno Garzon, from Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) has claimed that further 39 people have drowned - including four women and a baby.

However, numbers are difficult to verify as it is not known exactly how many migrants were on boats in the first place. This also means it is unclear how many people are still missing following the disaster.

How many were rescued?

The BBC and Reuters reported that a total of 227 migrants were rescued off Spain’s Canary Islands over the last couple of days.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The number of migrants traveling from West and North Africa to the Canary Islands has risen in recent years, making the community of islands one of the main destinations for those trying to reach Europe. Summer is typically the busiest period for attempted crossings.

The Western Africa-Atlantic migration route is considered one of the world’s deadliest. In 2022, at least 543 migrants died or went missing while attempting the journey, according to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM). However, the true number is likely higher.

The IOM added that there were 45 shipwrecks on the route during that period, but again acknowledged that the figure is “probably underestimated” because data is scarce and incomplete.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.