Number of migrants looking to reach Canary Islands more than doubles

Death toll climbs to more than 500 as Spanish authorities struggle with influx of refugees from North Africa

Dozens of migrants aboard Spanish Salvamento Maritimo's vessel 'Salvamar Macondo' arrive at Arguineguin's port in Gran Canaria. EPA

The number of migrants trying to reach Spain's Canary Islands has more doubled the past year as deaths on the perilous crossing continue to rise.

Spanish Interior Ministry data showed a total of 8,222 migrants arrived to the islands illegally between January 1 and August 15, compared to 3,364 in the same period last year

More than 23,000 migrants arrived to the archipelago in 2020, marking an eight-fold increase from 2019.

The UN's International Organisation for Migration has confirmed the deaths of 529 migrants this year, but the death toll is probably much higher as people disappear at sea without ever being reported missing.

Authorities on the island chain report they have been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees attempting to make the crossing in rickety boats from North or West Africa.

On Thursday, a humanitarian aid group reported 21 women and one girl had died and dozens more people were lost at sea as they tried to reach the islands.

Helena Maleno, founder of the non-governmental organisation Walking Borders, tweeted on Thursday that the Moroccan navy had recovered 22 bodies from a migrant boat.

She said there was one girl among the casualties, who were mostly from the Ivory Coast and Guinea.

Moroccan authorities have not commented or provided information about the incident.

Ms Maleno said that the boat started its journey carrying 86 people, including 36 women and 13 girls.

On Tuesday, Spanish rescue services rescued 31 migrants from a boat off the coast of the island of Lanzarote, with one of them dying shortly after.

The migrants told emergency services the boat had left African shores with about 60 people on board and that some had fallen into the sea during the journey.

Updated: September 02, 2021, 5:02 PM