'Families very worried' as at least 300 migrants including children go missing at sea off Canary Islands

10 July 2023, 10:03

Salvamento Marítimo rescuers have been searching for the missing boats.
Salvamento Marítimo rescuers have been searching for the missing boats. Picture: Salvamento Marítimo/Facebook

By Jenny Medlicott

At least 300 migrants have disappeared while travelling from Senegal to the Canary Islands, an aid group has said.

Spanish maritime rescuers are searching for three boats carrying African migrants after they went missing while making the journey from Senegal to the Canary Islands.

The first two boats, one believed to have been carrying about 65 people, and the second between 50 and 60 people, have been missing for 15 days, Walking Borders said.

A third boat is understood to have gone missing on June 27, carrying some 200 people.

Walking Borders said a number of children were on board the missing vessels, according to Spain’s Efe news.

The news outlet was also told by Spain’s maritime rescue service that a plane had joined the search for the missing boats.

Families have not heard from those on board since their departure, according to reports.

“The families are very worried. There about 300 people from the same area of Senegal. They have left because of the instability in Senegal,” said Helena Maleno of the aid group.

Each boat is believed to have departed from Kafountine in Senegal, about 1,000 miles from Tenerife.

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Spanish maritime rescuers said a plane has now joined the search mission.
Spanish maritime rescuers said a plane has now joined the search mission. Picture: Salvamento Marítimo/Facebook

The Canary Islands, off the coast of West Africa, is a frequented route by migrants heading for Spain, particularly in summer months – but it is also one of the most dangerous.

Typically those making the journey use fishing boats, which are more vulnerable to being tossed by the Atlantic currents.

It comes just weeks after an overcrowded fishing boat with migrants on board went missing, where up to 500 went missing and over 70 died after the boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, according to the United Nations.

At least 559 people - including 22 children - died at sea last year while trying to reach the Spanish Islands, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration said.

"Despite the year-to-year decrease, flows along this dangerous route since 2020 remain high compared to prior years," the IOM added.

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