Barcelona, Spain — Approximately 42 migrants, including 30 women and 8 children, are believed to have died when a boat overturned in rough seas shortly after sailing from the coastal town of Dakhla in Western Sahara. ..
Helena Mareno, founder of NGO Walking Borders, became one of 10 survivors who claimed to have lost two children in an accident that occurred late Thursday when the group tried to reach the Canary Islands in Spain in the Atlantic Ocean. I tweeted that I spoke to him.
Moroccan authorities in Dakhla could not contact immediately for official confirmation. However, local media reported that 12 bodies were washed ashore on Thursday and 10 were rescued by fishermen off the coast of Dakhla.
Morocco claims the disputed Western Sahara territory, which was annexed in 1975, and its navy is operating there. The Polisario Front seeks territorial independence.
Further north along the Western Sahara coast, the official MAP news agency reported Thursday that the Moroccan Navy had rescued 30 migrants just south of Laayoune. Naval vessels were still looking for 59 people, including 14 women and 4 children, in nearby waters hundreds of miles from Dakhla.
Separately, the Spanish Maritime Rescue Team said it had rescued 63 people near the Canary Islands on Friday.
Immigrant deaths are not uncommon in the Atlantic region that separates the west coast of Africa from the Canary Islands of Spain. However, this recent ship accident included an unusually high number of apparently dead women and children.
Shipwrecks on the West African route to the Canary Islands are often difficult to identify, and the bodies of most victims are never recovered. The United Nations Immigration Department reported that at least 250 migrants died on the route to the Canary Islands during the first six months of 2021, but Walking Borders reported more casualties on the same route during the same period. Reported and counted about 2,000 people.
According to IOM, arrivals in the first half of 2021 increased by 156% compared to the same period last year.