Over 30 feared dead as dinghy bound for Canary Islands sinks - migrant groups

Over 30 feared dead as dinghy bound for Canary Islands sinks - migrant groups
Neither Spain's coastguard nor the Moroccan authorities would confirm how many people had been on board the vessel or how many might be missing.
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Morocco to Spain is one of the oldest migration routes across the Mediterranean [Getty images]

More than 30 migrants were feared dead after a dinghy headed for Spain's Canary Islands sank on Wednesday, two migration-focused organizations said on Wednesday.

Walking Borders and Alarm Phone said the dinghy was originally carrying 59 people.

Helena Maleno, head of Spain's Walking Borders migrants charity, said in a tweet that 39 people had drowned, without giving further details, while Alarm Phone, which operates a trans-European network supporting rescue operations, said 35 people were missing.

Earlier on Wednesday, Alarm Phone reported the boat was taking on water and three passengers were dead, adding: "We demand immediate rescue, do not let them down!"

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A Spanish coastguard source told Reuters that an operation carried out by Morocco some 88 miles to the southeast of Gran Canaria island rescued 24 people.

The body of one child was recovered by the Spanish maritime rescue service and sent by helicopter to Gran Canaria, a Spanish coastguard source added, as Moroccan authorities requested their help.

The coastguard later tweeted that a second body had been found by a merchant ship, the Navios Azure, without giving more details.

Morocco's Interior ministry has not responded to Reuters request for comment and Morocco has not made any official communication about what happened.

"The dinghy had been begging for rescue in Spanish waters for more than twelve hours. Among the survivors, 24 people, 22 men, 2 women, are being transferred to Cap Boujdour," Maleno of Walking Borders said on Twitter.

The islands off the coast of West Africa have become the main destination for migrants trying to reach Spain, with a much smaller share trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to the Spanish mainland.

At least 5,914 people reached the Canary islands between Jan. 1 and June 15 this year, according to Spanish government figures, a 31.5% drop compared with the same period in 2022. The early summer months is a peak time for migrants to seek to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

A pregnant woman also died this week onboard a dinghy as she tried to reach Spain. Spain's coastguard said on Tuesday the woman's body was found on a vessel carrying 42 men, seven women and three children near the Atlantic coast of Lanzarote.

On Monday, another trawler spotted a migrant boat near Mogan, in Gran Canaria, with 53 people on board. Three of them were in poor health, the coastguard said.

Reporting by Reuters