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Death toll of migrants trying to reach Spain doubles in 2021

January 3, 2022

Migrant rights group Walking Borders has claimed over 4,400 migrants died attempting to reach Spain in the past year. The number is much higher than official UN figures.

Emergency personnel disembark the body of a deceased migrant in the port of Arguineguin, after their rescue near the coast of the Canary Islands
While Spain reports there had been over 39,000 arrivals by sea in 2021, it does not have figures of those who died while attempting the tripImage: AFP via Getty Images

Non-governmental migrant rights organization, Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) said on Monday that according to its data, 4,404 migrants had died trying to reach Spain in 2021. The NGO said that is more than double the amount that died in the previous year.

It is also the highest toll since the group began tracking data in 2015.

The vast majority of those who died had been en route from northern Africa to Spain's Canary Islands.

The group also provided figures of the hundreds of women and children who had perished on the journey. "A total of 628 women and 205 children have lost their lives due to the migratory necropolitics," the group said in a Tweet.

What has driven the death toll up?

The group said that migration control policies have been a key driving factor. There has been a marked increase in patrols along Europe's southern coastline which has narrowed routes that migrants would be willing to risk taking.

The Canary Islands are an archipelago situated in the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the routes migrants travel, and is particularly dangerous. There are longer distances to navigate and stronger currents to contend with.

Walking Borders collates data based on distress calls received from stricken vessels.

According to the group's founder Helena Maleno, the fate of each boat is investigated, and those who have been missing at sea longer than a month are presumed dead.

The group said that 90% of the missing and dead were lost on 124 shipwrecks since December 2020.

Precise death toll not known

The figures presented by Walking Borders are far higher than those from the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM count has the figure of those who have died or went missing at 955. The organization uses official records, news reports and data from other NGOs and said the figure is probably higher.

According to Spain's official figures there had been over 39,000 arrivals by sea last year. Spain does not track the amount of people who die trying to reach its shores.

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kb/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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