Several migrants missing off coast of Spain’s Canary Islands

The Spanish coastguard has rescued 13 migrants off Gran Canaria while twice as many are feared drowned.

Two Spanish coastguard helicopters have rescued 13 migrants and refugees in the Atlantic Ocean off the Canary Islands, authorities said on Monday.

Those rescued told Red Cross workers that around 40 people had been on board. The remaining passengers were missing and feared drowned.

The Spanish coastguard said the helicopters, a rescue boat and two other ships headed 104km (65 miles) south of Gran Canaria after a rescue plane had spotted a dinghy barely afloat at sea.

One of the helicopters rescued 11 people and took them to Gran Canaria, where two of them were being treated for hypothermia in health centres, while another two were taken to Tenerife.

Spain’s Canary Islands, located around 97km (60 miles) off the coast of Morocco, have become a hot spot for migrants trying to reach Europe in recent years.

Last year some 4,400 people were lost at sea attempting to reach Spain, according to a monitoring group. A total of 22,316 migrants and refugees crossed by boat to the Canary Islands in 2021, after 23,271 made the crossing in 2020.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated 3,077 migrants and refugees died or went missing while trying to reach Europe by sea in 2021. This includes 1,153 people who died on the ocean route from northwest Africa to the Canary Islands.

operated by the humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) rescued roughly 200 people on Monday from two boats in distress in the Mediterranean.

The organisation tweeted that all were safe on board, and that the Geo Barents will continue to search for boats in distress.

Over 300 migrants and refugees have been rescued in the Mediterranean following operations by aid organisations and freighter vessels in the last four days.

In a challenging two-day rescue mission starting Friday evening, two container ships sailing under the German flag as well as the Sea-Eye 4 rescue vessel were able to take 34 people travelling in a small wooden boat on board.

According to Sea-Eye, the Hamburg container ship Berlin Express had discovered the wooden boat and issued a distress call. Due to bad weather conditions and the nature of the ship, the freighter was unable to take the migrants on board.

“Without the crews of the Berlin Express and the BSG Bahamas the people would have had no chance to survive. They would have died of thirst or drowned,” said Gorden Isler from Sea-Eye.

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