Eight migrants die as boat capsizes off the Canary Islands

Arrivals in the Spanish archipelago have surged tenfold during the pandemic

Spanish coastguards arrive in Arguineguin carrying migrants after their rescue in Gran Canaria island, Spain on Wednesday Nov. 25, 2020. Spanish rescue services said Wednesday at least seven people died after a migrant boat carrying more than 30 people hit rocks close to a small port on the Canary Island of Lanzarote. Many of the rescued were taken to the Arguineguín dock on the southwestern coast of Gran Canaria island, where several thousand people of different origin are being kept, some in tents. (AP Photo/Javier Fergo)
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At least eight migrants have drowned after a rickety boat capsized off Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

The boat, which took off from North Africa, was carrying more than 35 passengers.

Four people were found dead late on Tuesday and another four bodies were located on Wednesday morning.

Lanzarote emergencies chief Enrique Espinosa said 28 people survived.

He said the boat set off three days ago from the Moroccan port of Agadir, some 420 kilometres (260 miles) from the Canaries.

Hundreds of people have died this year making the perilous crossing to the Spanish islands in the Atlantic Ocean, often in ill-equipped, overcrowded boats with unreliable engines, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Migrant arrivals in the Canary Islands have surged to 17,000 this year - 10 times last year's total - as north and sub-Saharan Africans grow desperate after losing income from tourism – a sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Spanish government said last week it would help to build shelters for new arrivals, after local officials complained of migrants sleeping in the streets.

The perilous sea passage to the Canary Islands was once a more popular route but migrant attempts to land there decreased after Spain stepped up patrols in the mid-2000s.

Rescue workers search for bodies after a boat with 35 migrants from the Maghreb region capsized in the beach of Orzola, in the Canary Island of Lanzarote, Spain November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Borja Suarez
Rescue workers search for bodies after a migrant boat capsized near the Canary Island of Lanzarote. Reuters

This year, with fewer options, migrants seeking an escape from poverty or conflict are again taking the longer, 1,400-kilometre (870-mile) sea route to the islands off the Moroccan coast.

As many as one in every 16 die attempting the dangerous sea crossing, according to the IOM, with more than 250 people known to have died or gone missing so far this year.

That is already more than the number of people who perished trying to cross the Western Mediterranean in all of last year.