A diminutive seafaring vessel, bearing the daunting load of 280 souls, has made landfall on Spain’s Canary Islands. The migrants found refuge on the quaint island of El Hierro, lying some 380 kilometers from the western coast of the African mainland, on a Tuesday – a day that will forever be etched in the annals of the archipelago’s history. Those who welcomed the unexpected guests claim that the migrants hailed from sub-Saharan Africa, marking the largest single-time arrival on the archipelago.
The voyage to the Canary Islands has attained a chilling reputation, known as being among the most frequented yet perilous passages to Europe for those that leave the cradle of humanity behind – Africa. Txema Santana, a seasoned journalist and former migration advisor, marked this spectacle with a profound statement released on social media, “I have, in my entire life, never witnessed such an overcrowded vessel.”
The new year has been marked by tragedy and despair, with 140 lives claimed by the sea or vanished into unknown horizons during perilous transits, as per the records of the International Organization for Migration. The recent spike in traffic on this route mirrors the tightened controls being imposed to deter the Mediterranean crossing from Africa’s northern shores.
Statistical data from Spain’s interior ministry paints a stark picture – a total of 14,976 desperate souls risked everything to land on the Canary Islands between January 1st and September 30th this year. This daunting figure reflects a 19.8% surge compared with the same period from the previous year.
The Senegalese navy, on a recent Sunday, reported the interception of a daunting fleet of four boats carrying more than 600 individuals over a span of three days. Further back in August, the world was faced with a heart-wrenching spectacle: at least 60 lives were presumed lost on a boat that met its ill-fate off Cape Verde. This African island nation forms a stepping stone on the perilous immigrant route to the Canaries.
Rescue workers at El Hierro had their hands full on Tuesday, providing care to the weary arrivals. Spectators recall seeing them resting on the earthy ground, their bodies shrouded in red blankets – a scene that underscored the sheer magnitude of this human odyssey.