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Over 951 People Died in Desperate Attempts to Reach Spain by Sea This Year

Migrants from Eritrea, Libya and Sudan crowd the hold of a wooden boat in the Mediterranean sea, about 30 miles north of Libya, Saturday, June 17, 2023. [AP Photo/Joan Mateu Parra]

In the initial half of 2023, a minimum of 951 individuals, comprising 49 minors, have tragically lost their lives while attempting to reach Spain via sea.

According to a recent report by Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders), published on Thursday, the individuals who tragically perished at sea originated from 14 different nations. These countries include Algeria, Cameroon, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, The Gambia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Syria.

During the initial six months of this year, an average of five individuals lost their lives daily across four distinct routes. These routes are the Canary Islands route, the Alboran Sea route, the Algerian route, and the Strait of Gibraltar route.

The group, utilizing official sources, refugee communities, and on-the-ground rescue organizations, compiled its findings and revealed that between January and June, a total of 19 boats disappeared at sea with all occupants on board.

Among the different routes, the access route to Spain through the Canary Islands registered the highest number of recorded fatalities, with up to 778 individuals tragically losing their lives in 28 incidents.

“Meanwhile, on the Alboran route, the two tragedies recorded in this period bring the number of victims to 21. As for the Algerian route, eight tragedies are known to have occurred, resulting in 102 victims. Finally, on the Strait of Gibraltar, 11 tragedies left 50 people dead,” the report said.

February and June were the months that witnessed the highest number of casualties, with 237 and 332 individuals losing their lives, respectively.

According to the organisation, official Spanish statistics indicate that fewer boats arrived in the first six months than in the corresponding period of last year, but that 13 more people perished.

According to Spain’s Interior Ministry, 12,192 people arrived by boat in the first half of the year, 4% fewer than during the same period in 2016.

Spain and Morocco were accused by Caminando Fronteras of lacking coordination and conducting inadequate search and rescue operations. It also listed additional contributing factors, such as inadequate resources and poor rescue procedures, contributing to the tragedies.

The group said that the two nations were more focused on “politics” than on saving those who were stranded at sea.

“The politics of death have been in place on the border for a long time. But we have also detected an increase in impunity in the face of rising death rates, which leaves victims and their families without access to reparation and justice,” said Helena Maleno Garzon, founder and director of Caminando Fronteras.

In a report released by Caminando Fronteras at the end of 2022, the organisation stated that since 2018, more than 11,200 people have lost their lives or went missing after trying to reach Spain — six on average each day.

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