Maritime News

Migrants drown en route to Spain

7 July 2017

Almost 50 migrants are believed to have drowned in the western Mediterranean as they were making the crossing from North Africa into Spain. In what is believed to be the worst tragedy in these waters this year, 49 sub-Saharan Africans were missing after their dinghy drifted and then capsized 28 nautical miles off the island of Alborán, midway between the Moroccan coast and Spain. The Spanish coastguard rescued three survivors.

Although the bulk of migrants and refugees being smuggled across the Mediterranean from North Africa into Europe have been transiting on the dangerous Libya to Italy route, there has been a sharp rise in migrants reaching Spain's south coast, with 6,464 arrivals in 2017 so far – three to four times the number arriving in previous years. The BBC reported estimates from a Spanish charity that 6,000 people have drowned trying to cross these waters since 1997.

The handling of the large number of migrants and refugees reaching Europe has been a contentious issue, with Italy bearing the bulk of pressure in dealing with arrivals. Migrants who reach Spain or Spanish waters are placed in police custody and then in a migrant or other centre, and then often deported.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to cross the sea into Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece this year.


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