Eight-fold increase in migrants arriving in Canary Islands

Coronavirus pandemic drives thousands of Africans to Spanish islands after losing incomes

The number of undocumented migrants arriving in Spain's Canary Islands on rickety boats was more than eight times higher in 2020 than in the previous year, the Spanish Interior Ministry said on Monday.

As north and sub-Saharan Africans grew desperate after losing incomes from tourism and other industries because of the Covid-19 pandemic, 23,023 migrants arrived in the archipelago last year, up from 2,687 in 2019, the ministry said.

Hundreds of people died last year making the crossing to the Spanish islands in the Atlantic Ocean, often in overcrowded boats with unreliable engines.

The migrants regard the Canary Islands as a staging post on the way to mainland Europe, but the islands are more than 1,000 kilometres from continental Spain.

Overall, the number of migrants intercepted by Spanish authorities across the country in 2020 rose by 29 per cent to 41.861.

Fewer people sailed to continental Spain and the Balearic Islands or crossed the land border between Morocco and Spain's North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.