The number of migrants arriving since the start of the year in the Canaries has exceeded that of 2006, the year of a record migration crisis in these Spanish islands located off the coast of Africa, according to official figures published Thursday November 16.
Between January 1 and November 15, 32,436 migrants landed in the Spanish archipelago, compared to a total of 31,678 for the whole of 2006, according to a report from the Ministry of the Interior. This number represents a jump of 118% compared to the same period of 2022.
According to figures published Wednesday by the European coast and border guard agency Frontex, the number of migrants arriving in the Canaries in the month of October alone (13,006) represents a record since it began collecting data in 2009. For several years, the migration route to the Canaries, in the Atlantic Ocean, has been particularly used by migrants due to the tightening of controls in the Mediterranean.
Shipwrecks are frequent during these long and dangerous crossings made aboard small, precarious boats from Morocco or Western Sahara, about a hundred kilometers away, but also, further south, from Mauritania, Senegal and even the Gambia. According to the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, which relies on emergency calls from illegal immigrants at sea or their relatives, more than 7,800 migrants died from 2018 to 2022 while trying to reach the Canaries. In the first half of 2023, there were 778.
Faced with the recent jump in the number of arrivals, the Spanish government has strengthened its means of surveillance and its cooperation with Senegal and Mauritania with a view to curbing them. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said in mid-October that “more than 12,000” migrant arrivals in the Canaries had been avoided since the start of the year. He then attributed the jump in arrivals to the “situation of destabilization in the Sahel”. The number of migrants arriving in recent months in the Canaries far exceeds the archipelago's reception capacity.
The unprecedented arrival of thousands of them on the small island of El Hierro, the westernmost of the Canaries, has led local authorities to compare it to the Italian island of Lampedusa, considered the symbol of arrivals of migrants in Europe. Speaking to MPs on Thursday, before being returned to power, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez assured that the central government was doing “everything to distribute these migrants” in reception centers in mainland Spain.
The Canaries are very often only a stopover for these migrants, who then try to continue their journey towards France in particular, in search of a better life in Europe.